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MS Live Meeting: technology in search of a channel model, wherefore Lotus?

Obviously there are risks associated with extrapolating a trend from a particular issue, but I did find it interesting that the chaps at YellowPark found it so hard to get any response from Microsoft about Live Meeting when they wanted to demonstrate the tool to a potential new client.
 
I know Chris Dalby pretty well and so when he complains that he is recieving poor service from Microsoft I take it seriously. YellowPark is a Microsoft Certified Partner and pays more than a grand a year for the privilege; one would assume therefore that if Chris calls MS’s Ask Partner line that he will get a response. It is now three working days and counting…
 
The technology is good, but Microsoft doesn’t seem to have realised either the product potential or the channel structure involved. Live Meeting is software that is hosted only, it is very much intended as a subscription-based service. There are three distributors in the UK.
 
So where are the resources for smaller players that are going to resell the uberhosts?
 
Sort out the documentation Microsoft. Its called an onramp. If you want to build a Live Meeting community surely you need to start with the channel, not the end user. Never mind employee incentives, what about channel incentives?
 
Chris says:
It seems to me that they have under-estimated the power of Microsoft Live Meeting and the ability of existing parners to sell this to a huge existing customer base. Hence, they have not arranged a suitable support structure for people like us on Live Meeting.

The reason I say this is because whenever I call Microsoft about resources for partners selling Live Meeting, I feel like a square peg trying to be stuffed down a round hole.
One reason MS needs to put its weight behind the community is that Live Meeting is an anomaly. Its collaboration software but its not Microsoft Exchange. It’s part of Office System but its hosted only. Live Meeting, and the hosted model, represents Microsoft’s future but it also doesn’t fall very easily into traditional Microsoft product buckets or business models. Neither fish, nor chicken, maybe its a frog, so how can Microsoft turn it into prince?
 
At first sight the fact Live Meeting is a “tweener”, falling in between different product categories and existing business models, makes it look like an opportunity for Lotus. Thus, for example, Ed Brill points to a recent win/renewal at DaimlerChrysler.
The ROI of being able to deploy one product to tackle messaging, sharing, and workflow is clearly how DaimlerChrysler benefits from Notes/Domino today.
Let’s look at this from another perspective. When Chris finally got the attention of one of the disties, he was able to close a deal with a customer on his first pitch. No Exchange, no Office, no other Microsoft software. The channel is always hungry for new opportunities.
 
Which brings us to the the other side of the coin for Lotus. What about prospects that don’t want to buy everything from IBM? What about channel players that only want to roll out online conferencing? Or just sell email, perhaps?
 
The problem with Live Meeting is that it’s somewhat decoupled from Microsoft’s Office and Exchange franchises.
 
The advantage of Live Meeting is that it’s somewhat decoupled from Microsoft’s Office and Exchange franchises.
 
We’re talking thin slices, lower barriers to entry, and true service orientation – in other words why buy a monolith, if that means integrated aggravation?
 
Microsoft can fix the channel problems, and we’ve seen similar issues plenty of times before. Live Meeting becomes just another entry point to Microsoft, rather than a final destination.
 
Lotus technology is now componentised. But what about the business model? Where are your hosting partners?
 
We may be moving into a new age of service-oriented computing, and “no 2 software” players like salesforce.com, but that doesn’t mean the channel is dead.

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8 Responses

  1. DaimlerChrysler, not BMW.

    In this space, Lotus has tried hosted. With IBM as our own channel. Didn’t work so much, because today Sametime is very optimized for on-premise/intranet deployment. Lotus do have some hosting partners for Sametime, including Connectria (who hosted the ND7 online launch press conference).

    One question, though — what is the value-add for partners like YellowPark and others? That’s a challenge question for hosted services in general, still, not just online meetings.

  2. doh! Daimler Chrysler: the perils of publishing at pace. (Nicolar carr or daniel lyons would have a field day)

    chris says the value add is money. the margins are slim, but the administration costs should be minimal. If you are asking what services Chis is going to wrap around it, his company sells all kinds of things that a firm purchasing teleconferencing might be interested in – such as professional DVD burning. The majority of YellowPark’s customers are the educational publishing sector, which is increasingly international, and geographically dispersed in terms of audience.

    blimey Chris just told me about another sweet part of his deal with the host in question – the reseller makes a portion of the transaction of people using normal telephone lines to dial into the system. in other words if its a 20 person call (the kind of thing IBMers know oh so well) then that’s something the seller makes money on, on a per minute basis per caller. its called an on demand business model.

    So are saying you IBM tried it, and failed (didn’t work so much), and now dismisses the market, or saying IBM has failed to make it stick, or that sametime is really a behind the firewall product and so not appropriate as a cross enterprise platform? Its not clear from your comment.

    one problem with your hosted model: IGS is possibly too greedy. The margins are too small to be worth its while. Without a ton of fiddling its not really an IGS kind of business is it. salesforce.com bad, Siebel good – but that’s an IGS, not a customer decision.

  3. James, the value propisitions in live.com is great. I think that you hit the nail on the head- correctly !!

    The value model is not channeled well. The tiers of services , or suite of services right from thre channal partner down to the end user has not been thought of properly. In short poor product support, poor serivce, zero customer satisfaction etc etc.

    When, xp was designed it was a stright product that was designed with good customer experince strategies. However as we hear that msft luanches more and more new stuff, their back end levels of customer satisfaction is becoming smaller and smaller. There appears to be a direct relationship to these two. I.e more products less customer satisfaction.

    Time will tell, if they, msft can ride that wave and don’t get drowned in the bargain. !!

  4. Interestingly, this comment showed up on my blog (different topic) just yesterday:
    >Pete McPhedran on 11/23/2005 6:45:53 PM – email http://www.corefusion.com

    >We find the hosting of Sametime to be very successful. SMB or Enterprise alike, we do a lot of ST hosting.

    So there are companies making a go of it. Yes, you are probably right with some of the IGS concerns about our own effort, but I wasn’t that close to it. I’m not dismissing the market, but I do believe that there is more opportunity for internal e-meetings (which would work well with a premises-based solution) than for external ones.

  5. could be worth trying to capture some of these hosting stories and get them online ed? i would never have a scooby (scooby doo=clue) if i visited IBM.com…

    why not have Lotus hosting wiki or something – issues and partners.

  6. Hi, James. I fowarded this post to the folks who run Live Mtg, and suggested they respond.

    I am guessing that featuring Live Mtg on next week’s “Apprentice” will not meet your requirements for channel support :-)

  7. Hi James – I’m responsible for Live Meeting and other related “real time” products for Microsoft in the UK. I want to assure you that we DO take channel partners very seriously and I’m disappointed that Chris had a poor experience contacting us. Rest assured that I’ve now spoken with Chris and met his immediate requirements. Equally, I’ve now set in motion a review of our partner content and contact process.
    The ‘square peg’ that Chris refers to remains partially valid as we know that most customers want to buy a voice conferencing solution alongside their purchase of Live Meeting. We’re working with our partners in Europe to bring these solutions to market as soon as we can.

    Neil LaverNovember 30, 2005 @ 3:25 pmReply
  8. excellent. thanks muchly cliff and neil.

    to neil i have to say YellowPark is very happy with your engagement with them on this issue. very responsive of you, and greatly appreciated. a classic blog story in fact – maybe i ping Scoble and tell him about it…



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