Lawrence Liu's Report from the Inside

Enabling a New World of Work with Microsoft Office system var sc_project=1590814; var sc_invisible=1; var sc_partition=14; var sc_security="da7eccb3";

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I'm finally back!

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   It's been over 4 months since my previous blog entry, and I've received e-mails from several readers nudging me to write again. I really appreciate the support, and now that I'm finally 100% back in work mode, I'm very excited about posting here much more often from now on. If you're curious about what I've been doing for the past few months (heh, of course you are!), check out this entry on my HomeBlog.

   So, I was at the Microsoft RTC Launch event yesterday in San Francisco and took a couple of pictures. [Update: The on-demand Webcast can be found here.] Aside from the fonts on the screen being way too small for me to see from near the back of the theater and the periodic latency and awkward no-you-go-okay-I'll-go-no-you-go-ahead pauses between the folks in San Francisco and those in Chicago, LA, and New York, the event went really well and had almost full attendance (I'd say about 700 people). Oh, RTC now stands for "Real-Time Collaboration" (instead of Communications), which to me is a much more impactful product positioning tagline. Here's a summary of what was announced:

    • Microsoft Office Communicator 2005
    • (previously code-named "Istanbul") is the new integrated communications application, and is the best client for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005. Communicator provides rich presence and unifies real-time communications modes — such as IM, voice, video, and access to voiceconferencing and Web conferencing — into a single application. It also enables PC-to-phone integration.
    • Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 Service Pack
    • is an update to Microsoft’s award-winning real-time communications platform. The service pack includes support for Communicator, enhanced "spim" (spam over IM) controls, and enterprise-grade connectivity to the MSN®, AOL and Yahoo! public IM services. Live Communications Server provides enterprise IM and an enterprisewide presence engine.
    • Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2005
    • , a major update to Microsoft’s popular Web conferencing service, helps users conduct effective online meetings and collaborative sessions without having to be in the same place at the same time. Key enhancements include the industry’s first integrated conference call controls for leading audioconferencing service providers, the ability to have a Live Meeting session from any Office application, and availability in seven new language versions.

   Of the 3 products, the most exciting one to me was the new version of Live Meeting, which I would argue is now the very best Web conferencing service available, bar none. I will certainly focus on pitching this to my customers over the next few months. If you are seriously considering Live Meeting 2005 and would like a 14 day evaluation, please ping me as I have several vouchers to give out. Or you can register for the free trial here.

   It's not that Communicator 2005 and LCS 2005 SP (and its Public IM Connectivity Pack) aren't exciting, but it will take some time (probably 3-9 months) before my customers actually start to deploy them, and most of my customers are already very happy with LCS 2003 today.

   Given the distributed nature of most large organizations, real-time collaboration solutions tend to have positive ROI (primarily in travel savings) in less than a year. Of course, the key benefit is the significant increase in workgroup productivity. Here are two relevant case studies: Unisys and Lockheed Martin.

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