Over on BloggingStocks.com, Douglas McIntyre cites a New York Times article when he reports that Microsoft wants to be the phone company. According to the Times, the latest versions of Office Communications Server 2007 and Office Communicator 2007 add voice calling and video conferencing. Computer users looking at an e-mail message in Outlook can see whether the sender and other recipients are online and available to talk.

Bill Gates, CEO of the world's largest software company, said that the new changes are as profound as the shift from typewriters to word processing software - though McIntyre notes that this may be a bit much. Douglas also notes that the combination of features will probably add a great deal to office productivity.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that unless MSFT bundles this new software with its current Office package that it will gain much traction outside of the biggest of company offices. I have a phone, I have an instant messenger client, and I have and email client, all of the features MSFT wants to roll into this new product. So why would I, or my tech department which has enough MSFT headaches anyway, want to upgrade to Office Communicator?

Still, MSFT shares are reacting well to either this news or the overall buying power in the tech sector today - I'm betting on the latter. Technically, the stock has crept above the 31 level for only the 21st time so far this year, and could post only its 12th close above this resistance level during the same time frame. However, MSFT has not held such gains for more than a couple days, so options speculators may want to think about a November or January 2008 out-of-the-money put at this point.