Product review: Microsoft Response Point 1.0

Product review: Microsoft Response Point 1.0

Microsoft's small-office VoIP system, buoyed by speech recognition, combines extraordinary ease and a restricted feature set

During testing, Response Point performed without any issue. Up to eight concurrent calls were processed by the auto-attendant. The Syspine IP 310 phones provide a nice balance of usability and functions -- with informative messages on the LCD, clear voice quality, and dedicated buttons for essential functions.

Response Point software lets users perform typical tasks from a phone, such as recording personal greetings. Moreover, the system stores about 100 hours of voice mail on the internal 500GB hard disk -- messages that are accessed from a simple playback menu. I also appreciated the ability to bypass the auto-attendant when calling from an outside phone number to retrieve my voice mail.

If Response Point's minimalist feature set might leave some unsatisfied, the built-in speech recognition will surely be a hit with others. Using technology from Microsoft Speech Server, Response Point is turned into a highly accurate voice recognition engine -- without any additional setup or training.

To evaluate this feature, I simply pressed the blue button on the handset (which is part of the hardware specifications) and said something like "Dial Bob." Every time I tried this with different names, the system dialed correctly. I liked the way you can park a call, go to another phone, and then retrieve it by saying, "Retrieve call," or "Retrieve call two." Call transfer works the same way, by simply speaking, "Transfer my call to Bob."

Further, administrators can configure responses to three specific questions callers might ask, such as: "What is your location?"

Beyond cool, voice recognition comes of age with Response Point. That said, Microsoft's solution will be most at home in small businesses already invested in Windows PCs and that need only a basic phone system. Specific to the Quanta hardware, you may need to purchase the optional Security Gateway for firewall protection, VPN, DHCP server, and QoS bandwidth management.

There's talk of integrating Response Point with Microsoft Small Business Server. Microsoft wouldn't discuss this, but I think it makes tremendous sense. After all, many potential Response Point customers are already running Microsoft servers, and this could bring collaboration capabilities to Response Point.

Microsoft has said that it will release Service Pack 1 for Response Point this summer. The free update will let you use Response Point to make outbound calls through an Internet telephony service provider, and will support Direct Inward Dialing to automatically route inbound callers to a specific extension.

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