Aastralink RP Debut Coincides with Microsoft Response Point SP1 release

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Aastralink RP Debut Coincides with Microsoft Response Point SP1 release


As I wrote back in March, the Microsoft Response Point Service Pack 1 (SP1) release would coincide with Aastra's Response Point phone system debut, which is interesting when you consider Aastra got into the IP-PBX game with a Microsoft IP-PBX competitor - the AastraLink Pro 160 appliance, an Asterisk IP-PBX derivative. Well, today marks the launch of Microsoft Response Point SP1 and the Aastra Response Point system aptly named the AastraLink RP.

Before I go into the AastraLink RP, let me first mention that the Microsoft Response Point Service Pack 1 is available as a free download to current Response Point users. Secondly, the announcement is being made at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2008. I'm told, "a very special senior Microsoft executive will make an appearance to help announce." I would have guessed it will be Bill Gates's but he retired recently on June 27th. Perhaps a special final appearance in a Microsoft capacity?

SP1 is a significant feature update to Microsoft Response Point designed for small businesses with one to 50 employees. Current Response Point customers and partners in the U.S. and Canada can download SP1 for free at http://www.microsoft.com/responsepoint. SP1 includes improved performance, SIP trunking, a call history log, the ability to push out new firmware to the phones automatically, and more. As for the SIP trunking, Junction Networks is the newest VoIP provider supported on Response Point SP1. New Global Telecom Inc. (NGT) and Cbeyond are two previously announced SIP trunking providers that work on Response Point.

Response Point features an easy-to-use admin, voice-enabled user interface, advanced call routing, built-in voice mail, automated receptionist and contact integration with Microsoft Office Outlook. In my pre-SP1 review of Response Point, I opined about the Asssitant's lack of click-to-dial when I wrote, "Unfortunately, you can't click-to-dial anyone in your corporate directory to initiate a call, transfer, or conference." Well, Microsoft added click-to-call functionality for any contact using the Assistant software. The Assistant also now has "presence" so you know when co-workers are on the phone.

I also complained, "Currently, the Music On Hold (MOH) is statically defined in the firmware by the OEM manufacturer and cannot be changed. It would be nice if the MOH could be customizable to support .wav or .mp3 files." They took that suggestion to heart as well since and SP1 adds the ability to select music for parked calls and hold time. I also wished Response Point had call screening of caller's name, call screening of voicemail being left live, and the ability to use RP phones remotely for telecommuters. Alas none of these 3 feature ideas made it into SP1, however, I was told by Microsoft that remote phone support is on the roadmap.

I should point out that using the Response Point button on the phone employees can press one button, wait for the chime, and then simply by issuing verbal commands to access anyone in the company directory, including anyone imported via their Outlook contacts. Press the RP button say "Dial John Smith" and it instantly dials. It's a great usability feature, especially when combined with the Aastra cordless handset.

The AastraLink RP comes with a cordless phone option (part of the 6757i CT RP model) which Microsoft and Aastra told me includes the "Response Point" button with speech-rec functionality. Aastra is one of three Response Point hardware manufacturers and the AastraLink RP base unit comes pre-loaded with SP1 and is available to customers in the U.S. and Canada starting today.

As part of this announcement, Aastra will offer a starter package that includes a base unit, external analog telephony adapter and three phones (including one cordless model) for a suggested list price of $2,400. Additional desktop and cordless phones are available ranging in price from $139 to $399 MSRP for the cordless model; prices are estimated retail prices. D-Link Corp. and Quanta Computer Inc. also will begin to roll out SP1 on their Voice Center IP Phone System and Syspine systems, respectively.

The AastraLink RP phone system is comprised of the RP 500 Base Unit which hosts the Response Point system software, the RP 540 Gateway with 4 analog telephone ports, and a choice of three Aastra Response Point IP phone models. The gateway and phone devices all feature auto-discovery and auto-configuration, making installation a snap.

Three different enterprise-grade phones have been developed for the AastraLink RP system; the entry level 6751i RP, the full featured 6753i RP, and the advanced 6757i CT RP which comes with a cordless handset. Offering larger display screens, superior audio, programmable keys, full duplex speakerphones, and POE support, AastraLink RP terminals deliver enterprise level features and functionality to the SMB market. In addition, the 6753i RP and 6757i CT RP models have headset jacks and support up to three expansion modules.

The All in all, Microsoft seems to be making great strides in the feature-set for their Response Point IP-PBX targetting the SMB, including adding some of my suggested features from my 2007 review. Also, the AastraLink RP phone system seems like a good IP-PBX solution for the SMB at an attractive price-point. I might just have to get one to review and check out.

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