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 said 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,” said Ed Simnett, lead product manager for Live Communications Server at Microsoft. “We’re confident that it represents great value for our customers. 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
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.