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Microsoft sets corporate IM pricing

The software giant announces the cost for Live Communications Server 2003, its upcoming enterprise instant-messaging application.

Microsoft on Monday said it has established pricing for its upcoming corporate instant-messaging software.

The Redmond, Wash., company said its Live Communications Server 2003--first known as Greenwich and later as Real-Time Communications Server--will initially cost $929 to install and an additional $34.95 per employee. A company representative confirmed that the software will be shipped later this quarter, which ends Sept. 30, but declined to name a specific date.

Live Communications Server is Microsoft's attempt to sell instant-messaging software that's geared for businesses. The software giant believes that companies will pay for IM services that are bundled with security and manageability features. Microsoft expects IM to be the center of its strategy to power corporate Internet networks and plans to provide other features such as Net phone calling and video conferencing.

Live Communications Server will be integrated closely with Microsoft's Outlook corporate e-mail software. Outlook users will be able to respond to e-mail via instant messaging if both the sender and recipient work in corporations equipped with Live Communications Server.

Instant messaging has flourished inside companies, mainly as an alternative communications tool that employees can download for free onto their PCs. IM providers such as America Online, Microsoft's MSN and Yahoo have reported hundreds of millions of downloads for their IM services and are trying to woo more consumers by offering extras, such as photo sharing, interactive games and presence detection, with their technologies.

However, selling IM to the enterprise has been more talk than action. The "big three" Internet companies have introduced enterprise versions of their IM services but have yet to report any significant interest among corporations.

Software companies such as IBM, Sun Microsystems and Oracle also provide corporate IM services and have predicted the business will take off this year.