Meet by the minute

Meet by the minute

A year after acquiring Web conferencing vendor PlaceWare Inc., Microsoft Corp. has tweaked the PlaceWare software into a hosted service called Microsoft Office Live Meeting.

The distributed, real-time conferencing service costs 45 cents per minute.

'Outsiders were hard to include' in conferences with Microsoft's earlier, peer-to-peer NetMeeting application, said Jennifer Callison, director of real-time collaboration marketing. Live Meeting requires only an Internet connection and a telephone to participate from anywhere.

It does not, however, provide live video streaming. 'We see it coming, but it's not a priority yet because of the bandwidth requirements,' Callison said. 'We want to retain reliability of our current offerings when we go to multimedia.'

Callison said the maximum number of users in a single meeting is 2,500. Participants, invited by e-mail through an add-in to Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes, can type in questions on their browser screens at any time, slow or speed up the presentation, view and annotate applications, send instant messages, and vote in predesigned or on-the-fly polls.

Presenter privileges can be limited to one person or extended to the entire group; unruly participants can be blocked.

After a meeting, users can replay the recording of the audio conversations in Windows Media format, synchronized with the slides and notes.

The secure hosting centers are located in California, Virginia and the United Kingdom, Callison said. Fixed-price shared seats cost $1,800 per seat per year.

Users can test a trial version for 30 days.

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