By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2005-04-25 Print this article Print

As soon as we logged on to Live Meeting, whether as a presenter or as an attendee, we noticed considerable changes in the UI. Many familiar elements are there, particularly for the attendee, but the UI has a new Office-style design.

Familiar elements such as the seating chart are still at hand, but Microsoft has introduced some new ones that simplify basic presenter tasks. For example, we could set up preferences that would be a default within Live Meetings console for every meeting.

Resources are associated with a users meeting room, so they always can be available provided administrators allow users to retain documents.

We generally liked the meeting management improvements. We found Live Meeting 2005 made it easier to move among shared applications and static content via a new control sidebar in the desktop and application-sharing view.

In addition, content management has been tweaked so that we could have a three-pane view of slides to include the slide deck, thumbnails and the current slide. Although we like the ability to save resources within the meeting console so that theyre available for the next meeting, wed like a more hierarchical way to manage content.

Live Meetings ability to force late arrivers to go to a waiting room—rather than join a meeting in progress—is a nice feature for large meetings or training sessions. As presenters, we could then select an optimal time to pull late arrivers in, or we could lock them out entirely.

On the administrative side, Live Meeting 2005 supports broader roles and policies to help administrators restrict access to features and enforce good password policies. We liked these much-needed improvements, but there are some basic limitations. Live Meeting 2005 supports only three user roles—administrator, organizer and member—which limits administrators ability to tune controls for participants needs.

On the audio side, Microsoft has integrated direct-dial and audio features for MCI Inc., BT Group plc. and InterCall Inc. services. Live Meeting 2005 supports VOIP and integrated voice recording, allowing a presenter to capture both the audio and video parts of a session and to broadcast audio to attendees.

The presenter can also control audio features, muting sound or dropping attendees voices, for example. Recorded sessions can be viewed only in Microsoft Media Player 9 and 10, and only with Version 10 will attendees see metadata associated with an event, such as the presentation title and the picture of the presenter.

Another nice feature in this version is broader support for importing content into the system. PowerPoint effects such as transitions are now preserved, and the service now converts common printable document formats, such as Word, Excel and PDF, to slides.

Click here to read a review of WebEx Meeting Center. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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