I should explain that title for the readers in our audience who didn't follow the adventures of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The Borg were an alien culture that snatched up other civilizations' people and technologies, "assimilating" them into a giant collective consciousness where individuality was nonexistent and bits and pieces of hardware and software were meshed with live creatures to form hive-like automatons, serving the common good. Once the Borg set their sites on a target, the eventual takeover was a foregone conclusion, as the Borg had the advantage of massive resources, advanced technologies lifted and adapted from everywhere, and a single-minded determination to take the pieces they found useful and destroy the rest. As they were fond of telling people who tried to fight back against their relentless onslaught, "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
Now that I have firmly established my geek quotient, we can move on to what this has to do with Live Meeting. I just noticed today that when I tried to go to the product page for Microsoft Live Meeting, I was instead directed to a site for Microsoft Unified Communications. It used to be that you could type in www.livemeeting.com or the even older www.placeware.com and go directly to the Live Meeting product page. Convenient and pretty much what I would expect, either as a current customer or a potential sales prospect. But some time very recently, Microsoft changed things. Ask for the product and you get a densely packed collection of information about the new Unified Communications conglomeration. Honestly, I can't even figure out whether I should refer to it as a product suite, a product offering, a solution framework, or something else. The page has no mention of either Placeware or Live Meeting, making it rather confusing to someone who finds themselves there after typing in a product name web address!
If you have the tenacity to dig through the tabs on the web page, you can make your way to the third tab, labeled "Unified Solutions" where you will find Microsoft Office Live Meeting listed in a column of eight product names under the generic heading of "Technology." Click on the product name and nothing happens. Eventually you will realize that the block of text next to it is an overview of the product and you can click again on a generic "Learn more" button. Voila! You finally arrive at the Live Meeting main product page. I will now do you a favor and tell you that the direct website address for the product is: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/livemeeting -- Use it wisely.
There was a time, many years ago, when I thought that Placeware was the niftiest thing since sliced bread. I liked working with their technology and their people. Then they got bought up by Microsoft and I immediately saw user interface changes I didn't like (I wish I still had the email, but I remember sending my account rep at the time a detailed list that set out obvious ways in which the product had been made more difficult to use). Now Microsoft has all but abandoned direct sales of the product (they still promote it through channel resellers) and has worked to remove easy acknowledgment of its existence on their website.
I still hold out hope that Microsoft Unified Communications will eventually include an upgrade to the Live Meeting product with renewed attention to it from a sales, marketing, and support perspective. But I have no evidence for that yet. It continues to look like Microsoft is throwing all its weight behind presence-based collaboration and is ceding the formal one-to-many presentation technology space to its rivals. A pity. But I suppose resistance is futile.
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