Product Reviews

A Live Meeting Minus the Airfare

Microsoft’s newest collaboration tool.

After working with Microsoft products such as Live Meeting, one becomes used to the term “wholly owned subsidiary.” Live Meeting, a Web presentation service acquired from PlaceWare, is similar to Live Communications Server 2003, sold under the Office umbrella.

While the two products are quite different in presentation, both offer online collaboration, discussion, application sharing and archiving, along with many other features that use Real Time Communication protocols. Live Meeting promises to be most beneficial to customers that need to participate in a meeting or presentation outside of their organization. Live Communication Server 2003, meanwhile, is more suited for enterprise employee-to-employee (E2E) collaboration.

Because Live Meeting is currently a service and not an installable server application, I signed on for the 15-day trial, which allows presenters to schedule meetings and invite other participants to attend over the Internet. The invitees don’t need to sign up, but do need to download the Live Meeting Conference Center application.

After completing the online registration form, I got an e-mail on how to log in to the Live Meeting site to schedule my first meeting. Anxious to get going, I went to the main login page, and from the main menu had several options to schedule and manage meetings. I set one up called “Recording Meeting” and sent out the invite.

There are several ways to communicate with the audience. For instance, a chat client is built right into Conference Center.

As I inserted various types of slides, such as a Whiteboard slide and Web slide, they were immediately visible to the audience. The Web slide was especially useful as the entire Web site is loaded in and can be navigated just as within a browser. These slides can also be referenced at any time—perfect for an informal brainstorming session.

Microsoft's Live Meeting
The presentation section of Live Meeting can contain various types of slides, including PowerPoint, Whiteboards and Web pages. (Click image to view larger version.)

Using Live Meeting in conjunction with a teleconferencing provider for real-time voice input is where the real power of the service comes in. The audience can indicate that they have a question, and their status color will change. Even without voice capability, the audience member could type the question into Conference Center, and the presenter can answer it at the appropriate time.

The ability to record Live Meeting sessions, including audio, and then rebroadcast is a great feature. To record audio, the Conference Center system where the presentation is being given also needs to dial into the telephone conference call system.

The more I worked inside of Live Meeting, the more I realized this service could have far-reaching benefits for customers and employees, from remote training and support, to company meetings for the traveling sales force.

There are several pricing options from a flat fee of $375 per month to time-based usage, which is 35 cents per minute. Though $375 may seem steep for many companies, when you think of the cost of travel and time, it can more than pay for itself.

About the Author

Rodney Landrum is an MCSE working as a data analyst and systems engineer for a software development company in Pensacola, Florida.  He has a new book from Apress entitled ProSQL Server Reporting Services.


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