Microsoft Connecting Web Conferencing with IM

The company plans to add the ability to launch Live Meeting sessions from Windows in its next update to the Web conferencing service. The move foretells a bigger push to offer a server version of Live Meeting in 2005 and further connect it with Office pro

LAS VEGAS—Next month, Microsoft Corp. is planning to release an update to its Office Live Meeting 2003 that will integrate it with Windows Messenger so that users can initiate Web conferencing sessions right from the enterprise instant messaging client.

In an interview with during the Comdex trade show here, Microsoft officials said the move is one of many that the software maker is planning to more deeply integrate its various products with Live Meeting, the renamed Web conferencing service it acquired from PlaceWare Inc.

The Redmond, Wash., company plans to go as far as to introduce in 2005 a server-based version of Live Meeting, something the company hinted at when it introduced Live Meeting 2003 in September. While details are still being worked out, the server version will either be a stand-alone offering or a feature within Microsofts Office Live Communications Server presence and IM software introduced with Office System 2003 in October, said David Hastie, product manager in the real-time collaboration group.

Any server version also would work in conjunction with the hosted service so that enterprises could mix and mingle their approach by, for example, using the server software with internal employees while connecting attendees from outside the enterprise through the hosted service, Hastie said.

"The demand has always been there for a premises-based and a server solution," said Hastie, who joined Microsoft from PlaceWare. "We believe there will always be a place for both."

With the integration of Window Messenger with Live Meeting, Microsoft is joining a growing trend of Web conferencing and IM vendors interconnecting their products. In October, Yahoo Inc. announced integration of it Business Messenger enterprise IM service with WebEx Communications Inc.s Web conferencing service.

Microsoft in recent months had been promising to provide a deeper connection between Windows Messenger and Live Meeting. The move marks the beginning of closer ties between Live Meeting and Live Communications Server, which is at the heart of the companys enterprise IM push. In the third quarter of 2004, Microsoft plans to release a full version update of the service, Live Meeting 2004, that will merge presence information from Live Communications Server into Live Meeting, Hastie said.

Presence information from Live Communications Server could be tied into features on Live Meeting such as the list of attendees or the seating chart of participants in a Web conference.

"We want to make sure that communication and collaboration has the broadest reach possible," said Ed Simnett, Microsofts lead product manager in real-time messaging and platform.

The next release also is promising deeper overall Office integration. Live Meeting 2003 already took some first steps with Outlook integration so Live Meeting sessions can be scheduled in Outlook as well as creating a native Windows client. The 2004 release will go further with the ability through a single click within an Office application to share that application and launch a Web conference session on Live Meeting as well as with new PowerPoint animation capabilities and Office file support.

Other new features planned for Live Meeting 2004 include the ability to transfer files, the integration of streaming audio and additional controls, such as muting, for audio running on the public switched telephone network.

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