One of my contacts asked me whether Live Meeting is being officially sunsetted. I had to admit that I didn’t have any official information on the subject, so I thought I would try to get an interview with somebody at Microsoft. I went through their PR firm, which is the only officially supported way to get press information or a request for an interview. I included a couple of key questions I wanted to cover, in order to help them find the right person for the subject. After a few days, I received the following reply, which I reprint here in its entirety:
Thank you for your patience here while I looked into your request. I have connected with my colleagues and they have provided the following information:
Will Live Meeting continue to be sold and supported as a standalone web conferencing solution outside of the business productivity suites?
· Live Meeting is being replaced by Microsoft Lync – the new business communications technology solution from Microsoft. Customers who have a Live Meeting Volume Licensing contract (either from Microsoft or via a partner) can stay on Live Meeting through the remainder of their contract. Transition for BPOS-S customers will be based on the transition from BPOS to Office 365, with some planned overlap of Live Meeting and Lync Online to allow for a smoother end user experience.
Is Lync envisioned as being able to support structured webinar events, or is it intended purely for small team collaboration?
· Lync is Microsoft’s new web conferencing solution, and can support audio and video conferencing with many participants. For more information about how to use Lync for webconferencing, please visit: http://lync.microsoft.com/en-us/Product/Workloads/Pages/conferencing-software.aspx
So there it is… As much information as Microsoft is willing to share. No named contact, nobody willing to put their name on a statement, nobody in the product group interested in talking to a lowly industry blogger about the topic. Fair enough – I’m not exactly ZDNet. But I am one of the few people who writes regularly about webinar software. Here’s my take on the statement and additional things I can glean from their various web resources.
It’s obvious that Live Meeting is dead. Say goodnight, stick a fork in it, this… is an ex-parrot. Finish up your existing contract period and decide whether you want to use Lync for your web meetings.
Now, how does Microsoft view Lync’s purpose in life? You can navigate to the web page in the italicized text above, or you can visit the main page for Lync on the Microsoft web site. There you can download the Lync datasheet and the Lync Product Guide in PDF format. I did, and spent some time going over them. It seems clear that while Lync web meetings may be able to handle “many participants” (I can find nothing stating representative capacity limits), there seems to be no attempt to create an infrastructure that would support registration and attendee management (such as confirmation, reminder, and thank you emails or public registration pages).
Microsoft is obviously concentrating on the full Unified Communication/Collaboration package, where the priorities are ad hoc meetings and peer-level collaboration in enterprise environments. Presence, video conferences, instant messaging, texting, and audio conferences are the focus, with web conferences supporting the mix in cases where you need to show some visual information. There’s definitely a good market there, and Microsoft has the size and strength to work through the things that enterprise IT managers care about, like integration of LDAP directories and secure employee use management.
But by removing functionality for structured registration, scheduled attendee communications, tracking and reporting on registration vs. attendance, and other webinar necessities, it means that departments and groups within those enterprises are going to be forced to look elsewhere for a supplemental technology when they need to schedule an external webinar. Marketing and lead generation are likely to be the most prominent enterprise candidates, with potential needs from customer training and public outreach programs as well. It may well create an easy entry point for existing competitors to Live Meeting.
This is not a surprising or shocking story. People in our industry will likely nod their heads and say “well, that’s that then.” Microsoft never really wanted to be in the business of “here and there” product licenses. Their business model is about massive volume sales of software products that are embedded everywhere. Webinars don’t have that kind of usage model. Microsoft hasn’t marketed or promoted Live Meeting as a standalone webinar solution for years now. It has faded into the background of their various office productivity suites (which change names every two years). It’s a wistful end for the once-mighty Placeware product that went head to head with WebEx as the dominant webinar solution in the early adoption phase of this business. And now it goes out not with a bang, but a whimper. Requiat in pace.
Unless I hear about webinar-specific functionality being introduced in Lync, I don’t plan to cover it. There are too many dozens of collaborative web conferencing products on the market, and I will try to retain my narrow focus on technologies and practices specifically meant for public webinars.