Microsoft Prices Office Live Instant Messaging Platform

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Microsoft said Monday that its long-awaited and delayed corporate instant messaging platform--Office Live Communications Server 2003--will be priced at $929 for the server and $35 for each user for the standard edition.

The shipment of the instant messaging server, formerly code-named Greenwich, has slipped several times, but company executives said recently that it would be available during the third quarter. On Monday, a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed that the standard edition will be available for customer ordering during the third quarter but would not comment on a previous CRN report that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft plans to ship an initial standard edition this fall and a more full-featured edition later in the year.

Microsoft is "focusing on the first version right now--standard edition," the spokeswoman said. She also said the standard edition will offer out-of-the-box enterprise-grade instant messaging features, the ability to build presence-awareness applications and the capability to "turn on" the presence features in Office 2003.

The company had also promised that it would make available a free Real-Time Communications (RTC) add-on for Windows Server 2003 last year, but has stated since that the free code for the Windows server would consist only of "foundational" APIs that allow developers to build RTC-aware applications.

Microsoft has changed the plan for its RTC product several times. Originally, it was expected to be part of the Exchange 2003 server. Later it was pitched as an add-on service for Windows Server 2003, and most recently it was renamed and positioned as part of the Office 2003 line of products coming this fall.

Channel sources said they had expected the Office Live Communications Server 2003 to be priced more affordably, but that the cost is in the same ballpark as Lotus' instant messaging product.

"Microsoft changed tactics on pricing. ... Microsoft Office Live is now priced competitively with Lotus Sametime, so I guess they wanted to realize revenue," said one partner familiar with Microsoft's plans.

Lotus Instant Messaging Server, formerly known as Sametime, costs $48 per user.

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