Microsoft dials up phone ambitions

SAN FRANCISCO–After years of planning its move into telephony, Microsoft is finally ready to start taking calls.

At an event here Tuesday morning, Chairman Bill Gates and Business Division President Jeff Raikes formally launched several products that are key to Microsoft’s strategy of offering “unified communications” for businesses–that is, software for bringing together e-mail, instant messaging, voice mail and telephony.

The event took place at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium–a venue better known for rock concerts than tech launches. It kicked off with fog machines pumping and a rock musician playing an electric guitar signed by Gates.

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