BT offers Microsoft web conferencing

BT has officially begun selling Microsoft's web conferencing service, Office Live Meeting, coupled with its audio conferencing...

BT has officially begun selling Microsoft's web conferencing service, Office Live Meeting, coupled with its audio conferencing services.

The move had been expected, particularly after BT quietly began promoting Live Meeting on its website last month as its primary web conferencing service over services from WebEx Communications.

BT will continue to offer the WebEx services, though Live Meeting will be its "leading offering" for web conferencing.

Additionally, BT has been deploying Live Meeting internally for "most of the past fiscal year" as part of an internal pilot programme, the spokesman said. According to BT, the company has saved over than 6.2 million miles of business travel in 2003 alone through the use of Live Meeting.

Microsoft has been aggressively chasing market-leader WebEx since it acquired its Live Meeting product through the purchase of PlaceWare last year.

BT and WedEx announced its joint conferencing services last February. At the time, WebEx, which already had deals with other European telecommunications companies, including France Telecom and TeliaSonera, said the BT deal was its largest European partnership to date.

Microsoft has partnerships with MCI and InterCall in the US to resell its Live Meeting product. Although the BT version of Live Meeting will only be available in the UK and the US, the deal marks an important step in Microsoft's plans to tackle the European market, according to Microsoft spokeswoman, Mui Luck.

"We are focusing right now on our partnerships with BT and MCI, but in the future, we will be doing quite a lot with the major telcos," she said.

BT said that its Live Meeting offering will provide users a "one-click" method for web conferencing that is reliable and scalable, as well as being a cheaper alternative to time consuming and expensive business travel.

The service is priced on a per-minute, named-user or per-seat basis. The list price for Live Meeting is 22p a minute, although volume discounts are available.

BT and Microsoft declined to outline the financial details of the agreement but said its partnership will continue to evolve. In June, the two companies launched a suite of broadband-based business tools under the banner BT Broadband Office Complete, and have future plans that include integrated audio and web conferencing, they said.

Laura Rohde writes for IDG News Service

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