Microsoft expands Web conferencing pricing options

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

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

Microsoft Canada was unable to provide IT World Canada with Canadian pricing at press time, however U.S. pricing is as follows:

For the Named User option with a maximum of meeting size of 15 (only one meeting per named user at a time allowed) and a minimum of five names: US$300 per user per year, which can go down to US$100 per user per year when bought in volume, plus US$3,000 annual fee for the Professional Edition; US$180 per user per year, which can go down to US$90 per user per year when bought in volume, plus US$3,000 annual fee for the Standard Edition.

For the Room licensing option, there is a maximum meeting size of 2,000 (only one meeting at a time allowed), and the user can buy only one room. For the Professional Edition: Limited (no more than 15 meetings a month) starts at US$10,000 for 50 seat room per year; the Unlimited (no maximum on meetings) option starts at US$30,000 for 50-seat room per year. For the Standard Edition, Limited (no more than 15 meetings a month) starts at US$6,000 for a 50 seat room per year, while Unlimited (no maximum on meetings) starts at US$18,000 for a 50-seat room per year.

Finally, for the Monthly Minutes licensing, users have unlimited capacity with a monthly use-it-or-lose-it commitment. There is no penalty for going over the purchased minute bundle. The Professional Edition starts at US$0.45 a minute, while Standard starts at US$0.35 a minute.

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