IMConferencing Combines IM, Web Conferencing for SMBs

The new service from LiveOffice lets users initiate online meetings from IM sessions; a future release aims for video and VOIP features.

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LiveOffice Corp. is entering the Web conferencing space by integrating instant messaging with conferencing and collaboration features.

The Torrance, Calif., company on Tuesday launched its IMConferencing service, which is focused on its base of small and medium-sized enterprise customers.

IMConferencing integrates IM, Web conferencing and teleconferencing. The service allows users to launch both ad hoc and scheduled Web meetings directly from an IM chat session. Web conferences also can be scheduled and launched through a custom-branded Web site managed through the IMConferencing Meeting Manager site.

With IMConferencing, LiveOffice joins a growing list of vendors that are connecting IM and Web conferencing. WebEx Communications Inc. in October launched integration with Yahoo Inc.s Business Messenger. Microsoft Corp. has said it plans to better integrate its Office Live Meeting Web conferencing service and its Windows Messenger IM client as one of many steps it is taking toward combining conferencing, IM and presence.

IMConferencing was built from the ground up to offer both IM and Web conferencing, said LiveOffice spokeswoman Amy Agnew. Also, LiveOffice has packaged together the audio conferencing portion itself. Audio is handled over the public-switched telephone network, and a user can connect participants by having them dial in or by having the conferencing service call them directly.

The Web conferencing features include application and file sharing, co-browsing of Web sites, and the displaying of Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. IMConferencing also can archive IM chats and online meetings for compliance requirements, which are especially important in the financial services industry.

IMConferencing, available now, costs $50 a seat per month for all the features. It also requires a one-time $500 setup fee, and the audio conferencing portion costs 17 cents a minute per user.

LiveOffice is planning to add video and voice over IP capabilities in the next release of the service, which will come out in the next few months, officials said. The company also is working on integration with Microsoft Office so that users can link into Outlook contacts, said Andy Estep, LiveOffice vice president of product development.