Q&A: Microsoft’s Strategic Alliance with BT

REDMOND, Wash., July 12, 2004 — Today Microsoft and the United Kingdom-based telecommunications leader BT announced a global strategic alliance to deliver a next-generation, integrated real-time communication and collaboration solution to customers worldwide.

The agreement will bring together BT’s audio conferencing technology and Microsoft Office Live Meeting to create a real-time collaboration solution for businesses around the world. The companies also will dedicate marketing and sales resources to help drive awareness, usage and adoption of the new solution. BT also plans deployment of Live Meeting within some divisions of its operation.

As part of the announcement, PressPass spoke with Anoop Gupta , corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit, and Pierre Danon , CEO of BT Retail, to discuss what the deal means for customers and the collaboration market as a whole.

PressPass: First of all, what can we expect to see from this alliance?

Anoop Gupta, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Real-Time Collaboration Business Unit.

Gupta: We are excited to be working with BT to deliver a communication and collaboration solution that integrates BT’s audio conferencing capabilities with Microsoft Office Live Meeting. We have a tremendous strategic alliance with BT to deliver this solution to customers, and we are proud to count BT among our customers who are using Live Meeting to streamline collaboration among distributed workgroups, customers and partners. In the future, we will work together to deliver tighter integration at the product level into a holistic solution. Beyond the technology itself, the move combines Microsoft’s extensive development and marketing resources with BT’s highly regarded, world-class telecommunications network and services organization.

Danon: On the development side, BT and Microsoft are working to integrate their respective products. Our first integrated offering is available immediately, and we will begin working to upgrade existing customers to an integrated Web and audio solution. Operationally as well, we’ll be sharing best practices, and both organizations have committed to developing the technology to more fully support the production of stage-managed, larger audio conferences that have a Web component. Microsoft already is working on that area today, and I know strategically from BT, they are also committed to growing that portion of the business.

PressPass: What led the two companies to pursue this arrangement?

Gupta: Last summer, Pierre met with [Microsoft CEO] Steve Ballmer in Redmond, and they had extensive discussions about the future of collaboration services. This meeting was shortly after the acquisition of PlaceWare [now Microsoft Office Live Meeting] by Microsoft. As a result of that meeting, Microsoft and BT decided to start investigating how we could work together to deliver a compelling real-time collaboration solution to our customers. The ability to integrate audio- and Web-conferencing services to create a holistic solution for businesses was, of course, very significant to both of us, and BT’s depth of experience and understanding of the marketplace is essential to deliver a compelling solution today as well as help guide future product-development activity. Together, the existing relationship, the go-to-market insights, the synergies between the products and BT’s existing marketplace footprint create a unique opportunity for both companies.

Pierre Danon, CEO, BT Retail.

Danon: Both BT and Microsoft are playing in their respective fields of strength, with Microsoft possessing the software development and marketing expertise to really grow the category. From a BT perspective, we are a service provider of quality, and we’re very proud of that. We feel we do that very well, and the companies we serve in the conferencing space include a large number of Fortune 500 organizations. There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle coming together and we believe we can offer our customers a strong joint offering.

PressPass: How do customers stand to benefit from this agreement?

Gupta: Business customers are faced with shrinking budgets and a greater need to collaborate with distributed workgroups, team members, customers and partners. This alliance will deliver a solution that empowers businesses of all sizes with true real-time collaboration opportunities regardless of geographic location, allowing them to make better, more informed decisions, increase productivity and cut down on travel-related expenses. The integrated offering provides customers with a single source for audio and Web conferencing services as well as other value-added benefits, including quick account set up, real-time Web-based support and unique training implementation and adoption programs. This will be a tremendous benefit that allows customers to hit the ground running and get the most out of their conferencing solutions.

Danon: Customers are excited about Web conferencing, but people still need to find the right applications to bring it into their day-to-day work life and meetings. From an end-user point of view, having an integrated solution that includes both the audio and Web conferencing functionality in a seamless, easily managed package provides a very significant improvement in ease of use, which will help customers spend less time interfacing with the product and more time realizing the true value of collaboration software — real-time communication across geographies. To that end, we’re excited that customers will get the respective strengths that BT and Microsoft offer, the product development and marketing skill from Microsoft and the audio conferencing expertise and service wrap from BT, so they can really tap into the potential of real-time communications and collaboration.

PressPass: How will this alliance affect the overall market for collaboration tools?

Gupta: Customers are asking for integrated collaboration solutions that increase productivity and ultimately increase the efficiency of meetings and distributed workgroups. Today’s announcement establishes the relationship between BT and Microsoft to bring these real-time collaboration technologies to our customers. This convergence of different forms of technologies, particularly Web and audio conferencing, along with deeper integration into desktop and productivity applications, will enhance the effectiveness of team collaboration. Web and audio conferencing traditionally have been standalone offerings; it is exciting to see our alliance with BT seamlessly enable the integration of holistic collaboration solutions.

Danon: I believe that the best thing we can do for the overall market is to deliver best-of-breed communication and collaboration tools that deliver real value to customers. BT believes in the ecology of partnerships with other leading technology companies. This agreement brings together two players with global capabilities who share the goal of doing just that. We believe that Microsoft will do some innovative things with the product. When you put that together with our voice products and then add packaging and marketing to the mix, we believe we will facilitate usage and adoption and bring real, bottom-line value to customers. We certainly are excited to be a part of that.

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