Microsoft Expands Live Meeting Pricing Plans

Microsoft further integrates its Web conferencing service into the Office group with more familiar licensing options such as named-user and volume licensing plans.

Microsoft Corp. has expanded the licensing options for its Office Live Meeting Web conferencing service, bringing it more in line with the way it prices other applications in the Office product group.

The Redmond, Wash., software maker on Wednesday announced three new subscription options for Live Meeting and began including the online meeting service in its enterprise volume licensing program.

The new subscription options are a named-user license, a room-based option and a committed set of monthly minutes akin to a cell-phone plan. The new subscriptions are in addition to the shared-seat and per-minute models currently available.

"Weve been looking at different usage patterns and believe customers have different [licensing] needs," said Jennifer Callison, director of product management for Live Meeting.

Microsoft entered the Web conferencing space after acquiring PlaceWare Inc. last year, and then relaunched the service under the Office umbrella. Callison said the additional pricing plans better match the expectations of Office customers by providing a named-user option and more fixed-price plans.

Under the named-user option, customers can designate a Live Meeting license to an individual, who can conduct an unlimited amount of meetings with a maximum of 15 participants. Along with an annual per-user license, it requires a flat yearly fee to participate.

The room option is targeted for regular events with more than 15 participants. Customers can buy annual packages that allow a maximum of 50, 100, 200, 500, 1,000 or 2,000 participants.

The monthly-minute subscription is an extension of Live Meetings per-minute plan, but customers buy a block of monthly minutes for a lower per-minute rate. Unlike most cell-phone plans, if customers go over the minute commitment, they pay the lower rate for additional minutes, Callison said.

As far as volume licensing, Microsoft is adding Live Meeting as a product to two of its half-dozen or so programs, Callison said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts plans for Live Meeting, including an upcoming update that integrates more closely with Office applications.

Along with new subscription plans, Microsoft renamed its two editions of the Live Meeting services. They changed from "Presenter" and "Premiere" to "Standard" and "Professional" to fit standard naming practices for Office products, Callison said.

Microsofts biggest competitor is market-share leader WebEx Communications Inc. WebEx CEO Subrah Iyar, foreshadowed Microsofts move into named-user licensing during the companys second-quarter earnings call last month

He said that WebEx itself has added more options for entry-level Web conferencing users. The company also offers a range of licensing options, including per-minute and committed-minutes plans, as well as shared-user plans, a WebEx spokesperson said.

"We think overall [Microsoft] will continue to try to find different configurations that work," Iyar said, citing the named-user approach. "That is not lower pricing per se. In fact, if you go and convert our entire base to named pricing, our rev would go up 20 to 30 percent."

Also last week, WebEx announced an expansion in its global presence. It launched its MediaTone Network in India, improving performance for Indian companies and providing them with a greater number of Web conferencing and real-time meeting features.

MediaTone is the name of WebExs underlying network service for handling communications. WebEx had purchased Indian conferencing provider CyberBazaar Pvt. Ltd. and upgraded its digital network, WebEx officials said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read more about WebExs latest release of its Meeting Center Web conferencing service.

In other Web conferencing news, WiredRed Software Corp. last week launched a Web services interface for its e/pop Web Conferencing software.

The XML-based interface lets developers integrate Web conferencing functionality into such enterprise applications as document and content management, customer relationship management solutions and Web portals. The e/pop Web Conferencing SDK (software development kit) is available now.

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