Microsoft Corp. is moving to make its PlaceWare Web conferencing service a part of its integrated software stack with the release of an update, and it plans to offer stand-alone server software as well.
Microsoft Live Meeting 2003, which the Redmond, Wash., company released last week, is an upgrade to PlaceWare Inc.s Conference Center service that Microsoft acquired last spring. It is targeted at virtual meetings and online events involving an organizations dispersed employees as well as partners and customers.
The update features a native Windows client and a redesigned user interface that uses the paradigm of other Windows applications. Users can disable functions on the fly; scalable graphics and hot keys make customization of a users view easier. Better integration with the Outlook address book makes meeting scheduling easier, officials said.
The hosted services traditional browser client is still available, though with less functionality than the Windows client. Scheduling and administration enhancements include the ability to set recurring meetings and to customize a meeting invitation on the fly to add to a users branding features.
Like its predecessor, Live Meeting 2003 accommodates up to 2,500 simultaneous users in one meeting. In addition, Microsoft enhanced the scalability and load balancing features of the platform to allow a single company to support up to 250,000 users across 100 meetings simultaneously.
Microsoft is working on a server version of Live Meeting 2003 that a customer could run in-house, like the Exchange Server and SharePoint Portal Server members of the Office System group, according to Jennifer Callison, director of marketing for the Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit. This would enable customers to present a seamless face to the outside world, Callison said.
Callison would not say when the server version of Live Meeting will be available.
Also in the pipeline are versions of Live Meeting 2003 tweaked for four vertical industries: financial services, high tech, professional services and pharmaceuticals. Companies in those industries have complex products and services that create a need for many meetings to explain their value to customers, Callison said.
Pricing for the Live Meeting 2003 hosted service remains unchanged at $75 per user per month for the basic offering and $150 per user per month with application sharing and recording and other functionality.