Microsoft: Fleet of Foot

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-03-06 Print this article Print

Microsoft hustles to please customers of its Live Meeting service, and has promised more tightly coupled collaborative technologies.

Like a waiter hustling for a fat tip, Microsoft makes its Live Meeting services stand out with lightning-quick support services, according to customers—though some add that the menu should be tweaked.

Volt Information Sciences, a temporary staffing firm, switched from WebEx to Live Meeting in late 2004. Steve Acterman, Volt's director of information technology, ladles praise on Microsoft's support for his Web conferencing deployment: "It was better than for any I.T. tool we've ever rolled out."

RBC Dain Rauscher, a brokerage and investment banking services company, has used Live Meeting since 2000, before Microsoft's 2003 acquisition of startup PlaceWare, which formed the backbone of its Web conferencing services. Shawn Spott, manager of learning systems, has since evaluated competitors—but he says Microsoft's support always shines brighter. "Their 800-number support is more effective and faster," he says.

But some features of Live Meeting could be improved, according to Spott. For one thing, he would like better integration between Live Meeting and Microsoft's SharePoint Web portal software; for example, to allow someone to launch an ad-hoc conference directly from a SharePoint team list.

Such enhancements, Microsoft says, are already bubbling on the stove. In January, it created the Unified Communications Group, aiming to integrate Web conferencing, instant messaging, and audio and videoconferencing technologies. For example, a future version of Microsoft's Live Communications Server software for instant messaging will include conferencing features based on Live Meeting, so customers will be able to host their own Web meetings, though Microsoft hasn't announced a delivery date or specific features.

That strategy was a big reason business information publisher Wolters Kluwer decided last year to standardize on Microsoft's collaboration tools, including Live Meeting, says Kevin Taylor, director of collaboration technologies. While Live Meeting met with resistance from a group of "very entrenched WebEx users that didn't want to use the new tool," he says, Microsoft demonstrated that Live Meeting could do everything WebEx could do even though it required a few more clicks for some tasks. Says Taylor, "Microsoft to its credit stepped in and showed the group how they could accomplish what they needed to do."

Web Conferencing

1 Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
(425) 882-8080

Ticker: MSFT (Nasdaq)
Employees: 61,000

Anoop Gupta
Corporate VP, Unified Communications Group
Appointed head of newly created unit in January, overseeing all of Microsoft's real-time collaboration technologies. Previously, he was a technology assistant to chairman Bill Gates, and before that led Microsoft's collaboration and multimedia research group.

Serhii Sokolenko
Product Manager, Unified Communications Group
In charge of strategy for Live Meeting. Before joining Microsoft in 2005, he worked for Metex, an application development software vendor.

Microsoft Live Meeting allows participants to present PowerPoint slides, share documents and applications, and use other interactive features, such as audience polls and virtual whiteboard tools.
Reference Checks

RBC Dain Rauscher
Shawn Spott
Mgr., Learning Systems
Project: Brokerage and investment banking firm holds about 100 training sessions per month for 1,750 geographically dispersed financial advisers with Live Meeting.

Raymond Dinglasan
Dir., Sales
Project: Job-search site has 350 sales representatives who use Live Meeting Web conferencing to handle virtual sales calls.

Wolters Kluwer
Kevin Taylor
Dir., Collaboration Technologies
Project: The business information publisher provides 1,000 of its North American employees access to Live Meeting Web conferences.

Volt Information Sciences
Steve Acterman
Dir., I.T.
Project: The $2 billion temporary staffing firm based in New York holds meetings for employees in 300 U.S. offices with Live Meeting.

Drake Beam Morin
Greg Simpson
VP, Online Services
Project: The outplacement consulting firm, which has 230 offices worldwide, last year held 4,000 Web seminars attended by 50,000 people using Live Meeting.

E*Trade Financial
Chris Larkin
VP, Active Trader
Project: Online brokerage offers access to Web seminars on finance and investing topics to its 3.5 million customers with Live Meeting.

Executives listed here are all users of Microsoft's services. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Microsoft Operating Results*
2006FYTD 2005FY 2004FY
Revenue $21.58B $39.79B $36.84B
Gross margin 83.8% 84.4% 81.8%
Operating income $8.70B $14.56B $9.03B
Net income $6.79B $12.25B $8.17B
Net margin 31.5% 30.8% 22.2%
Earnings per share $0.63 $1.12 $0.75
R&D expenditure $3.11B $6.18B $7.78B
Sales and marketing $4.63B $8.68B $8.31B
*Fiscal Year Ends June 30; YTD Reflects First Six Months


Total assets $67.26B
Stockholders' equity $44.21B
Cash and equivalents $4.08B
Short-term investments $30.62B
Long-term debt None
Shares outstanding 10.64B
Market value, 2/22 $276.11B
**As of Dec. 31, 2005, except as noted


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