Microsoft wants to extend the functionality and reach of its Office Communicator 2005 instant-messaging (IM) client, and has decided to do so by making the software completely web based. A private beta release of the "Office Communicator Web Access" client should be launched on July 15, with the final version of the software shipping before the end of the year.

Communicator Web Access is similar to Microsoft's Outlook Web Access product, said Anoop Gupta, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft's Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit.

"People need reach and access from a lot of places," Gupta told Microsoft Watch, in explaining why Microsoft decided to do a Web-based version of Communicator.