Microsoft Reveals Greenwich Pricing

Microsoft Monday unveiled the pricing of its forthcoming Live
Communications Server (formerly known as both Greenwich and the Real-Time
Communications Server), another indication that the product is inching
closer to its third quarter launch.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software titan told internetnews.com the
server will have an estimated price of $929, with Client Access Licenses
(CALs) coming in at $34.95. Microsoft said final pricing will be based on
the volume of the purchase.


“We’ve set the price for Live Communications Server to be competitive in
the marketplace, we’re confident that it represents great value for our
customers,” Ed Simnett, lead product manager for Live Communications Server
at Microsoft, told internetnews.com Friday. “As with all Microsoft
products, both on the server and the client side, customers who purchase
larger volumes of software do get discounts.”


As a solution for internal communications, the product’s price point alone
stands to make it a significant challenge to enterprise IM offerings from
Yahoo! and AOL, as well as many of the third-party IM gateways like
FaceTime, IMlogic and Akonix — which log and manage public IM, making them
safe for use within the enterprise. Typically, those solutions begin at
about $30 per user per year. The Live Communications Server’s starting
price also is competitive with Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly Sametime),
currently the market leader in enterprise IM deployments.

On another price point, however, Microsoft would seem less competitive.
The company has been shy on giving details of how Live Communications Server
will interact with its external, public .NET Messaging Service, with its
millions of MSN Messenger clients. However, the expectation is that
third-party partners like IMlogic will step in to offer interoperability
between external and internal networks.

But an integrated implementation like this, of course, would make Live
Communications Server significantly more expensive per user than solutions
offered by AOL or Yahoo!, or MSN itself — all of which support external
communications at no additional cost. Lotus also offers an additional
per-processor pricing model for unlimited extranet use, which could make it
competitive for very high-volume deployments.


While Microsoft said it is not ready to disclose when the product will be
released to manufacturing, it did say it is on track to ship in the third
quarter.

“I don’t have any final timing on that,” Simnett said. “We’re very happy
with the timeframe we’ve committed to.”

The Live Communications Server is intended to provide secure, enterprise
instant messaging and presence — the ability to detect whether a user is
online and available. It is also geared to be a platform for emerging
communications technologies: Internet telephony, application sharing, and
video conferencing.

The Live Communications Server is built on the Session Initiation Protocol
, or SIP, a technology designed to foster communication streams
in a variety of different modes, ranging from instant messaging to VoIP
.

When Live Communications Server ships in the third quarter, Microsoft plans
to offer APIs for syndicating presence information as a free add-on for
Windows Server 2003, allowing ISVs and enterprises to embed Live
Communications Server-based presence in Web pages and to create new
applications based on the technology.

The product’s presence capabilities will allow a user who receives an email
in Outlook 2003 to see whether the sender is online and available. If so,
the user will be able to initiate an instant messaging conversation from
within Outlook. Microsoft is also pointing to the power of integrating its
Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 with Live Communications Server,
allowing information workers working in a portal to see the presence of
teammates and initiate instant collaboration sessions in the portal
environment.


Together, SharePoint Portal Server, SharePoint Services and Live
Communications Server will provide site-based collaboration that’s tied
into Office 2003’s core applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access,
and Outlook — while also offering up embedded IM and alerting.

A user can register peers’ IM handles in the Outlook Contact List, and
special field in Word, Excel, and the other applications will reflect
colleagues’ availability, with each application capable of spawning an IM
session.

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