Microsoft Debuts Office Live Meeting 2007
After working on it "fast and furiously" for two years, according
to Roger Murff, director of marketing for Microsoft's Unified Communications
Services group, the company unveiled Office Live Meeting 2007 at its annual
Tech-Ed conference last month (June 4-8 in Orlando, Fla.). Not expected to be
available in finished form until sometime this fall, Murff sees the upcoming
service as an important piece of the company's overall Unified Communications
and collaboration strategies.
Several of the new capabilities have their origins from over the past 10 years
of Microsoft's experience in Web conferencing along with feedback from corporate
users. Some of those new enhancements include a more simplified user interface
that helps users better focus on content and a number of training and event
features that give presenters the ability to offer handouts, public training
sessions and advanced testing and grading.
Murff sat down with Redmond Editor Ed Scannell to discuss the strategic
ramifications of the service for its Unified Communications plans and how and
why it will finally make Web conferencing a more pervasive reality among larger
Redmond: What's the strategic importance of this version of Office Live
Murff: This is an important part of our Unified Communications vision,
which is to streamline communications. It delivers, we think, on some important
investment areas for users such as a significantly redesigned user interface.
But to me the most exciting part of this release is a new, integrated rich media
experience. Basically, [what] we're pulling together in one environment is two
kinds of audio, both phone and computer audio or voice, live webcam video using
Microsoft Roundtable, where you'll have 360-degree live video and support for
showing rich media file formats. Last but not the least [is that] it's built
on the same technology platform as the Web conferencing available in Office
Communications Server 2007.
Is this the sort of product or solution we can expect to see a part of Microsoft's
"Software Plus Services" (SPS) initiative over the short term?
Yes, this is a nice, clean example of what that's all about. Right now, for
instance, you and I are having a Web conference looking at a PowerPoint presentation,
using the same client, and we don't necessarily know whether we're using Live
Meeting or Live Communications Server 2007 on the back-end. What matters is
we can both have a rich client experience and that technology is being served
out to us in the way that makes sense to an IT organization.
During beta testing did you get any unexpected feedback from the larger
Some of the more interesting feedback from larger customers is around the
fact [that] there's not just one kind of meeting. There are ad hoc meetings
that aren't scheduled where people sitting at their desks need to have a conversation
and do it through Web conferencing. There's a scheduled meeting that's slightly
more structured and we're actually going to share a PowerPoint and maybe use
a common whiteboard to take notes from that meeting. Then at the high end there
are formal training sessions that could scale up to thousands of users. We think
we're covering a lot of that with this release.
are the short-term prospects for Web conferencing being accepted more broadly
among larger shops?
The competition for Web conferencing is really planes, trains and automobiles.
The market for Web conferencing is growing at a terrific rate right now, but
there are a lot of people out there still not using Web conferencing. But with
this more streamlined client experience we're trying to deliver, I think the
chances of getting them to participate in a Web conference without having to
really think about it and just doing it is better. I see more information workers
getting more into Web conferencing to improve their productivity. Also, you're
obviously reducing corporate costs as well as making people more productive
How much of an opportunity do you see for this product in the online training
I think we've addressed the concerns of the larger customers wanting more
online training and for handling events. Things we're offering here are the
public event registration page, advanced testing and grading and a really cool
one around rich recordings. We've had support for recordings for a while now,
but now we support all these different rich media types. So now you have the
ability to record all those different media types and play them back. You can
play them back in a more efficient manner, and you're able to search based on
a specific slide or presenter or a specific time in the meeting.
Who do you see as your major competitors?
There are some major competitors out there but this is still a fast-growing
market with lots of activity. The innovation the competition is driving us and
others to will only better serve users. The bottom line is we will have more
people using Web conferencing and that's what I most want to see.
Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.