Clients for Office Communications Server

I’ve been doing a bit of work recently to figure out what would be needed to move from current Live Communications Server (LCS) setup to Office Communications Server (OCS).  Part of this has been to think about what clients are available for the various platforms people might be using.

I thought it might be useful to post up a quick summary of what I’ve found.

Windows

Windows is obviously the primary platform that OCS is designed to work with.  To that end it has the most feature rich clients.

Office Communicator 2007 R2
Office Communicator 2007 is the main client for OCS.  It is the most feature rich client available and includes support for the full range of OCS’s capabilities:

Instant Messaging
Presence
Enhanced Presence
Assess Levels
PIC Connectivity
File Transfer
1:1 Voice and Video
Multiparty Voice and Video
Live Meeting sessions
Call Management Features
Remote Call Control
VoIP
Office Integration
Calendar Free/Busy
Conversation History

Office Communicator 2005
Office Communicator 2005 is the original client for LCS.  Whilst most people will move to MOC 2007, if you’re migrating from LCS during the rollout it might be necessary to have some people using the older client. 

Whist MOC 2005 will work with OCS and OCS R2, there are some limitations.  If you enable Enhanced Presence for the MOC 2005 users in OCS then they won’t be able to connect – as I understand it this is also something that can’t be undone once the user has also logged into MOC 2007.  Also if you’re running OCS R2 you’ll also need to install the December 2008 hotfix package.

Once you have it working, you have access to most of OCS functionality, but updated features like enhanced presence aren’t available.

Apple Mac

Messenger for Mac 7.0.2
If you’re a Mac user, MS provide a pretty decent OCS client in the form of Messenger for Mac.  As well as supporting Live Messenger, this support various flavours of LCS and OCS, with the recent 7.0.2 version and later supporting OCS 2007 R2.

Messenger for Mac supports the majority of OCS and Office Communicator features, including things that were missing from previous versions such as audio and video conferencing, Enhanced Presence, GAL search, and support for federated users.  In fact the only major items not available are support for LiveMeeting sessions, VoIP support and Access Levels for presence.

One thing to note, is that once a user has been enabled for enhanced presence and has logged in using Messenger for Mac 7, they won’t then be able to use version 6 or earlier.

Macs can also use the Web Client described below.

Messenger for Mac can be found here:

Messenger for Mac site

and the product team have provided some good documentation for it here:

Messenger for Mac Deployment Guide

Web Client

Office Communicator Web Access
Communicator Web Access provides a web based interface into OCS for remote workers.  It provides the core functionality of IM and Presence, but OCS R2 extends that functionality significantly.

With R2, web users can use Desktop Sharing sessions.  If you are on a Windows computer then you can launch, view and control sessions, if you’re on a Mac or Linux based box then you’ll only be able to view and take control of a session.

What’s more, if you have telephony configured within your OCS environment, web users can also initiate, receive and control audio conferences.  By providing a the number of a telephone they can use, OCS dials in that phone and connects it to a conference hosted on the A/V Conferencing server.  If an incoming call is received whilst a users is connected to the web client they can use it to redirect the call to an alternative phone.

Another interesting new feature is the ability to provide a Web Client to people who aren’t part of your organisation so that they can join conferences/conversations.  There’s an ‘invite using email’ function that will send them a specific URL that will launch a web client session and join them into the converation.

There are a few other additions with R2 such as the ability to use distribution groups for messages, and support for customising the logon pages with company logos etc.

Windows Mobile

Communicator Mobile (CoMo)
For Windows Mobile MS is provided a pretty decent communicator client, and then improved it further with the R2 release.

CoMo supports all the usual IM and presence functionality, including communication with PIC contacts and distribution groups.  It provides access to the corporate address book, and lets the user initial phone calls to numbers held within it.

The R2 version has a number of improvements to the client, as well as some improvements in interaction with an R2 backend.

On the client side there are a few usability improvements like access to recent contacts and expanding distribution lists.  The R2 version is also a lot more efficient in terms of network usage which contributes to vastly improved battery life over the previous version.

One big advance is the on the voice integration with OCS.  When using the CoMo client to make calls, the client uses the OCS infrastructure to make calls, potentially saving call costs.  It also allows for single number reach, with calls to an OCS desk phone will ring the mobile and will be answerable on the mobile.

When working with an R2 backend presence is also a lot smarter for people using more than one client – for example people with a CoMo phone and OC on their computer.  OCS will determine the most recent activity and use the presence from that device.

CoMo can be downloaded from a Windows Mobile device here.

Apple iPhone

For while now I’ve been keeping an eye out for an OCS client for the Apple iPhone.  As yet I’ve not managed to find an equivalent to Windows Mobiles CoMo, but does appear to be a solution out there if you really have to have one.

WebMessenger seems to provide an iPhone version of their client, though it does looks like you need to install their WebMessenger Server Platform alongside OCS/LCS in order to use it.  So ultimately it’s not that useful.

It looks like the client supports IM, Presence and contact lists, but the information on the website doesn’t go into any detail.

Update:  Since originally writing this post, Modality Systems have released a full iPhone client for OCS.  I’ve written some more on this client here.

RIM Blackberry

Blackberry Client for OCS
If you use Blackberry’s in your organisation RIM has provided a client for OCS.  It provides presence and IM capabilities, though does not support any audio or video conferencing.  It does however integrate into the other Blackberry applications, so you can set your presence from the Home screen, and will show the presence of contract directly from the phones address book.  The client also used the phones spellchecker in IM messages and allows links and phone numbers in messages to be clicked and followed/dialled.

There is also an application that supports the older Live Communications Server.

The application is available here.

Mobile Phones

Office Communicator Mobile for Java
To provide OCS to a wider range of mobile devices the OCS team have now released a Java version of the CoMo client which supports the Nokia S40 and S60 and the Motorola RAZR V3 (though others may work).

The client provides much of the same functionality as the Windows Mobile client, including IM, Presence address book access and single number reach.

Further details can be found here and here, and you can download it onto you phone from getcomo.com.

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