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Microsoft unveils web phone hardware

This LG-Nortel USB Phone is designed to deliver a "high-quality user experience" with Microsoft's built-in software

Microsoft has unveiled a new range of web-enabled phones and associated products that it hopes will bring an end to the traditional office phone.

Microsoft's new phones can deliver emails, instant messages and phone calls over the internet. The company has worked with nine technology manufacturers, including Samsung and NEC, to develop the phone hardware.

Instead of using separate systems for phone, email and instant message communication, Microsoft foresees that Office Communicator 2007 will do all three.

The new products include a VoIP phone from NEC that connects to your computer's USB port. There's also an LG-Nortel Headset with Bluetooth that connects via wireless technology to Microsoft Office . Other hardware manufacturers working with Microsoft are ASUS, Plantronics, Polycom, Tatung, and Vitelix.

Microsoft predicts that the shift to web-based phone systems will gain momentum during the next three years. If this is the case, the company is set to make billions of dollars in new revenue.