Microsoft expands Web conferencing pricing options

IDG News Service |  Software

Looking to win more users for its Live Meeting Web conferencing service, Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday introduced three additional licensing models.

U.S. customers can now also choose to license named users, virtual meeting rooms or sign up for a block of monthly minutes. Microsoft previously offered Web conferencing only on a per-minute basis or unnamed user licensing, which allows users to host meetings with up to a set number of participants at anytime.

The named user model is aimed at heavy Web conferencing users, such as sales people. Meeting rooms are good for events, or for newcomers to Web conferencing and monthly minute bundles offer discounts to customers who commit to buying packages of minutes, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has been trialing the new licensing options since February, said Jennifer Callison, director of product management for Live Meeting at Microsoft. "Customers are very receptive to the new models. We try to understand their usage pattern and then try to match the pricing model with their needs," she said.

Additionally, Microsoft has renamed its Presenter and Premier Live Meeting product levels to Standard Edition and Professional Edition, respectively, to fit with the Office naming convention. Professional Edition offers application sharing control, recording and printing of meeting content, Standard Edition does not, Callison said.

Live Meeting is sold directly by Microsoft online as well as partners including MCI Inc. and Intercall Inc. The meeting room and named user models are also available under Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement and Select volume licensing programs, the company said.

Microsoft entered the Web conferencing fray when it acquired PlaceWare Inc. last year. Web conferencing is a burgeoning market with several players including WebEx Communications Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Raindance Communications Inc.

Last year the Web conferencing market generated $472 million in revenue, which is expected to grow to $3 billion in 2010, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan Inc. WebEx controlled 67 percent of the market last year, far ahead of Microsoft, which came second with 16.5 percent, according to Frost & Sullivan.

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