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Microsoft ties Office closer to conferencing, IM

Margie Semilof

Microsoft continued in its work in recasting Office as a collaboration platform on Tuesday by making available an updated version of its hosted Web conferencing software, an update to its instant messaging server and a new, integrated multimedia client.

The client, which was

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Microsoft still has work to do … so people are more open to rolling out Office to get new capabilities, and not just a refresh.


Mike Gotta, analyst,

Meta Group

,
formerly code-named Istanbul, is now called Office Communicator 2005. The software brings together instant messaging, voice, video, telephony and access to Web conferencing. It will be released to manufacturing in 90 days. Pricing and licensing information will also be released at that time.

LCS service pack available soon

There is also a new service pack for Office Live Communications Server 2005, which adds the promised support for multiple public IM networks, and adds some enhancements to its ability to connect more than one organization together. The software is manageable from within Microsoft Operations Manager, and users can connect to it without using a VPN, in the same way they can connect to Outlook in Office 2003.

The service pack will become available next month.

In addition, Microsoft released a new version of its Live Meeting Web conferencing software, which makes it possible for users to begin a Live Meeting session from an Office application. Users can also hold voice calls that are integrated with the software using VoIP. This release of Live Meeting, which is a hosted application, will be available on March 11.

By offering the ability to hold a conference from within a desktop application, Microsoft is trying to cut down on "business latency," said Mike Gotta, an analyst at Meta Group Inc., a Stamford, Conn.-based consultancy.

A new way of thinking about Office

The most common users of Live Meeting are those who are involved in activities such as marketing events, sales and training. And by combining

For more information

See what Microsoft said about Istanbul at a recent conference

 

Read about enterprise messaging's dynamic duo

Web conferencing, IM and VoIP with PCs and phones, it becomes more interesting technology, Gotta said.

The market for Web conferencing is dominated by a hosted model, Gotta said. WebEx Communications Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., holds the biggest share at 60%. Microsoft's market share is about 20%. To date, people haven't made [conferencing] part of their daily life. IM is pervasive, but most people are using AOL's client and the other public services, and VoIP is only just now taking off.

The integrated communication is what makes Microsoft's strategy different, but Microsoft also has to change the way that people think about Office. "Microsoft still has work to do in terms of remaking the brand, so people are more open to rolling out Office to get new capabilities, and not just a refresh," Gotta said.


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