Microsoft has set a launch date for its unified communications suite which aims to help users make an easy transition from PBX systems, networks, and desk phones to add voice-over-IP and other digital communications tools.

In July, Microsoft released Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 to manufacturing, but starting October 16 the commercial release will be unveiled to the public. One of the key benefits Microsoft touts is the ability to integrate voice and other communications into productivity applications without the need of replacing existing infrastructure.

Microsoft also plans to offer its unified communications as a service, in an effort to serve small businesses which lack the IT resources to set up and run a communications system of their own. This will likely raise the competition between Microsoft and Cisco, which is moving into the same space from its stronghold in physical networking gear. However, the companies claim that their competing products will work together well, easing customers' fears that the increased competition could lead to incompatible gear and higher costs.