Microsoft announced on Monday at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) 2007 a new generation of devices that will connect the workplace phone to e-mail, instant messaging, real-time presence information, conferencing, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and mobile communications and is designed to work with Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007.

Microsoft has partnered with ASUSTek, GN, LG-Nortel, NEC, Platronics, Polycom, Samsung, Tatung and ViTELiX to manufacture the phones, delivering “greater choice and innovation” and giving “customers more choices when it comes to designs, cost and feature innovations”. Microsoft is providing the device manufacturers with design specifications to ensure out of the box compatibility with Microsoft unified communications software.

This week, 15 devices including Internet protocol (IP) phones, Universal Serial Bus (USB) phones, wired and wireless headsets, conferencing phones, LCD monitors, and laptops will become available for use in Microsoft’s public beta program, businesses interested in taking part on the beta can join here. Although manufacturing partners are yet to announce the price of the phones, it is said Microsoft wants all of them to make the VoIP phones affordable, offering an overall package more affordable than integrated products from Avaya and Cisco.