Snapshot: Microsoft Live Meeting 2005

Vendor Name: Microsoft
Date of Publication: March 8, 2005
Author(s): David Ferris, Lee Benjamin, Nick Shelness, David Via
Source of Information: Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President, RTC Business Group
Quick Summary of Live Meeting: Web conferencing service, formerly known as PlaceWare Conference Center.

Company Statistics

· # Full-Time Product Development Staff. Undisclosed
· Stock Market Status: Public, MSFT
· Revenues: Live Meeting revenues are not separately reported, but are incorporated into the Information Worker revenues which were approx. $8 billion in FY04
· # Live Paying Customer Seats: Undisclosed

Live Meeting

Product Name: Microsoft Office Live Meeting
Product Functionality. Main features:
· Hosted offering, accessed via web browser or Windows client.
· Presentations
· Application / Desktop sharing
· Whiteboarding
· Chat
· Instant polls
· Initiate meetings directly from Microsoft Office applications
· Integrated audio controls
Platforms: Hosted offering.
Competition: Today it's mainly a two-horse race, with Webex the main competition. IBM Web Conferencing Service is likely to become substantial competition. Infinite Conferencing and Macromedia are distant competitors, as are a host of smaller low-cost providers. To date, this market has been primarily brand, as opposed to price driven. It is unclear whether Microsoft plans to attack Webex based on price.
Main New Features. There are many new features. The most important are:
· Office integration. Microsoft Office applications now have an add-in Live Meeting toolbar. Eg, you can be working on a spreadsheet and simply initiate a meeting; Outlook lets you schedule meetings even when in offline mode; and there's two-way synchronization with Outlook calendars.
· Presentations. Any document type (provided it can be printed) can now be imported. Previously, only PowerPoint presentations were supported. You can zoom into slides. A true PowerPoint viewer is now built in, allowing builds, animations, and transitions, and full screen display.
· Multiple languages. Until now, only English was supported. Now user interfaces are available for Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Users can choose their preferred language.
· Streamed audio. Until now, all users had to have a telephone connection to listen in. For broadcast-style meetings, audio can now be streamed out to listen-only participants over the Internet, with no phone call being required. Clearly this can save a lot of money.
· Audio integration. Integration is provided for phone conference services from BT, MCI, and Intercall. You can mute/unmute audio using PC controls rather than obscure phone touchpad commands; specify a phone number and have the service dial out to you as a participant; specify a new participant's phone number and have the service dial out to them; and disconnect participants from the audio conference.
· Active Directory integration. An Intranet Portal provides pre-packaged integration with Microsoft Active Directory enabling automated account creation, password management and user login.
· Improved meeting controls. Life's been made easier for presenters. New participant management features include the ability to instantly promote an attendee to a presenter, provide attendee profiles, lock a meeting, and invite additional participants. The Meeting Lobby provides a simple way to bring new entrants into a meeting waiting room until the presenter grants them permission to join the meeting.
Release Date: The 2005 version of Microsoft Office Live Meeting will be available on March 11, 2005.
Pricing: Prices start at 35¢/user/minute, without an audio bridge. Unlimited use for one presenter, with up to five participants and no audio bridge, is $99/year. Unlimited size meetings with the Enterprise Edition (audio not included) is $1,800/presenter annually, or 45¢/user/minute in monthly plans. There are many other pricing options.
Main Plans--Next 12 Months:
· Microsoft has confirmed plans for a next generation real-time server that includes web conferencing features in addition to being offered as a hosted solution
· Live Meeting 2006 hosted service will provide webcam support and 2-way VoIP.
Special Characteristics Claimed by Vendor: The vendor emphasizes strengths in the following areas:
· Integration with MS Office applications.
· Easy-to-Use, in part because of look-and-feel that's consistent with Office applications
· Easy to deploy, because it's a hosted service.
For Further Information.

Other Ferris Research Comments

· Live Meeting is a very successful offering, a leader in the web conferencing field.
· This announcement is significant. It covers a lot of important enhancements.
· The announcement also shows the Placeware acquisition being integrated into the Microsoft fold.
· When running Live Meeting (or other web conferencing services), it's a big help to have multiple monitors or computers running. Eg, slides on one, instant messaging and email on the other, with sound on the phone.
· This is not yet an installable version of Live Meeting Server for use within corporate networks, as previously promised by Microsoft. This functionality will be built into a future version of a real time server offering expected in the second half of 2006.
· Live Meeting is particularly important for Microsoft as it is their solution for multi-party (one-to-many or many-to-many) web conferencing. Live Communication Server is currently a one-to-one collaboration platform.
· Costs for web conferencing services typically run at 30¢-50¢/user/minute, audio included. Over the next few years, this is likely to drop precipitously, to perhaps 5¢/user/minute.

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