Microsoft: Fleet of Foot
Like a waiter hustling for a fat tip, Microsoft makes its Live Meeting services stand out with lightning-quick support services, according to customersthough 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 competitorsbut 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."
Microsoft Operating Results*
Total assets $67.26B
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Short-term investments $30.62B
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**As of Dec. 31, 2005, except as noted