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Microsoft To Add Web Conferencing To Next LCS

The next version of Microsoft Live Communications Server (LCS) will add Web conferencing to the instant messaging, presence features in the current incarnation, sources said.

Thus far, Microsoft has offered Web conferencing as a service in Live Meeting.

The company has been working to converge the Live Meeting and LCS code bases over time although company executives have said they plan to continue to offer both hosted Web conferencing and an on-premises version for companies who want to deploy that way.

Live Meeting, which competes with Webex's hosted conferencing service, came to Microsoft by way of that company's purchase of Placeware three years ago.

Sources close to Microsoft said the upcoming LCS will cover the range of Web-, voice- and video conferencing.

Microsoft is not disclosing much about this Office 2007 release of LCS, although an executive last week told CRN that the next LCS will not be relegated to the 64-bit-only server world. Zig Serafin, general manager of Microsoft's recently-formed Unified Communications Group, said more details will be disclosed at an event later this month in San Francisco.

While Microsoft maintains a co-opetitive stance with other communications players, particularly the makers of PBX switches and other networking gear, company insiders say its unified communications push will put it into more contention with these players going forward.

Just weeks ago, Cisco and Microsoft announced a pact to help partners integrate Microsoft Dynamics CRM with Cisco's VoIP platform. But, Microsoft's offerings and Cisco's MeetingPlace perform the same tasks.

And at VoiceCon in March, Microsoft and an array of players including Avaya, Alcatel, Siemens and Nortel announced plans to build interoperability between their respective offerings. Microsoft then positioned the current LCS 2005 as the "hub" for unified communications.

Microsoft's view of voice- and data-communications as part of one huge market was conveyed in its reorg last January when it put real-time communications and Exchange Server into one overall Unified Communications Group.

With its stack including Active Directory, Exchange Server (for traditional asynchronous e-mail), LCS for real-time communications, SharePoint for shared workspaces, it hopes to get a bigger share of what it sees as a $40 billion market opportunity in voice- and data- communications.

Microsoft and IBM which compete fiercely in e-mail and real-time communications arenas, are both working to line up public partnerships with telco and PBX players. But sources at and close to Microsoft say the real story will be increased competition with these partners going forward.

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