Virtual meetings cut face-time, downtime

Microsoft says organizations can cut one in five face-to-face meetings simply by embracing its real-time collaboration concept.

Launching new versions of its Microsoft Office real-time collaboration software, Microsoft Office Live Meeting 2005 and Microsoft Live Communications Server 2005 this month, the company claims the next-generation workforce is demanding these technologies.

According to Microsoft Australia's real-time collaboration business manager Oscar Trimboli, next-generation communication is based on Web conferencing, instant messaging and convergence.

"Of course, we don't see Web conferencing replacing every face-to-face meeting but it can make a difference," he said.

He cited Edith Cowan University in Western Australia as one such example.

The university is using Microsoft's Live Communications Server 2005 which allows staff and students to interact via the wireless campus or at home using instant messaging or soft phone.

A research project at the university, which saw students demanding access to collaboration technologies, was the main driver for the implementation.

The university's manager of development and alumni, Tony Hum, said the implementation has improved the university's image with a new generation of students.

Enterprise Web conferencing use will increase 175 percent in 2008, according to Frost & Sullivan predicts.

Fuji Xerox is using Microsoft Office Live Meeting to provide regular product training for its geographically dispersed sales and support teams across the country.

Previously, Fuji Xerox would fly them to its Sydney training centre, but now regular sales and support training is held via a Web conference.

Fuji Xerox education services manager Martin Head said the focus is on improved productivity not cost savings.

"You can't get away from the need to travel altogether but now people are better prepared when they do come to our national training centre, which means they get more out of it," Head said.

"But the average saving for Web conferencing is $2K - $5K per two-hour session."

Competing with Microsoft in the collaboration space is Polycom, which last week launched its SoundStation2W conference phone in Australia.

James Anderson, Polycom manager A/NZ, said it is the company's first wireless conference phone based on the triangular-shaped SoundStation range, which aims to eliminate cable clutter on the conference room table. It introduces new levels of flexibility and mobility for different work environments, including spaces where no phone line is available, he said.

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