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Microsoft, BT team on Web meeting software

British communications giant will become a reseller of Microsoft's Live Meeting service.

Microsoft is set to announce a deal Monday with British communications giant BT Group to boost the software giant's Live Meeting Web conferencing service.

BT will resell Live Meeting subscriptions integrated with the company's own conference calling services, according to a statement from the companies. BT also has signed on to use Live Meeting internally for its 150,000 Internet connected employees.

Microsoft introduced Live Meeting last year as the outgrowth of its acquisition of Web conferencing specialist PlaceWare. The service allows businesses to present slideshow presentations and conduct more complex collaboration tasks over the Internet.

Web conferencing has turned into a booming market over the past few years, with firms embracing the technology as a way to cut down on business travel. The market is led by specialist WebEx but has attracted fresh competition from Microsoft, Macromedia and others.

The BT deal follows through on Microsoft's strategy of partnering with major telecommunications providers to resell Live Meeting, said Jennifer Callison, product manager for Live Meeting. The software giant previously struck deals with MCI and InterCall.

Such deals are important, Callison said, because companies typically get started with Web conferencing as a step up from plain conference calls. "One of the prime initial markets for Web conferencing is as an add-on to audio conferencing," she said.

BT will continue to offer WebEx services, but LiveMeeting will be the "leading offering" for Web conferencing, according to the companies.

BT and Microsoft are also working on joint development projects to integrate audio and Web conferencing, Callison said, such as interface add-ons that would allow participants to control conference calls from a Web browser.