Monday, July 13, 2009

VIA3 CEO Challenges Microsoft Live Meeting to Web Conferencing “Taste Test”

Google isn’t the only software company ready to take Microsoft products head on.

Buoyed by a July 9th usability lab test which showed VIA3 heavily favored over Microsoft Live Meeting 9 to 1, VIA3 CEO Brian Hodges has formally challenged Microsoft to a “Taste Test” between the two rival products. Similar to the famous “Pepsi Challenge” which pitted the lesser known soda against the powerful Coke brand, Hodges hopes to showcase his product’s industry leading features.

In a letter addressed to Steve Ballmer at 1 Microsoft Way, Hodges asked for a product face off at a mutually agreed upon independent usability lab complete with full media and public access. “We are looking forward to going head-to-head with Microsoft Live Meeting on a national stage. We are extremely confident that VIA3’s rich web conferencing features will continue to be preferred over Microsoft Live Meeting by independent users who try them both side by side as a standalone product. The richer, deeper set of features inside of VIA3 will quickly be evident, considering that Microsoft Live Meeting requires at least two other products be added on to match our included features.”

An industry analyst present at the usability lab predicted that Microsoft would realize quickly that this is a contest they should avoid. Microsoft Live Meeting has the same problem that WebEx and GoToMeeting have; they cannot match VIA3’s depth of features. WebEx has already turned down a contest with VIA3, issued to them on June 10th of this year.

The July 9th usability lab test focused on a blend of 20 “Business Decision Makers”, “Productivity Application Power Users”, and “Productivity Application Novices”. The subjects were asked to weigh a number of factors, including Audio and Video quality, Presentation and Sharing Mode(s), Ease of Use, General Features, and more. 18 of the 20 subjects (90%) “preferred” or “strongly preferred” VIA3 over Microsoft LiveMeeting. 2 of the 20 subjects (10%) preferred or strongly preferred Microsoft Live Meeting over VIA3. None of the subjects (0%) was undecided.

One usability lab participant described using Microsoft Live Meeting as “suffocating when compared to VIA3” due to the difference of features that VIA3 offers as compared to Live Meeting. Hodges later likened that comment to Plato’s philosophical ‘Allegory of the Cave’. “Users accustomed to web conferencing only being a temporary online presentation are quickly realizing how much more they can accomplish with VIA3’s additional communication and collaboration tools. Once you upgrade to VIA3 from the limited solutions like Live Meeting, WebEx, or GoToMeeting, you don’t look back.”

As of time of printing, Microsoft has not accepted, nor commented on the VIA3 challenge.

Want to decide for yourself in advance of the “taste test”? VIA3 from VIACK can be downloaded free for 30 days from http://www.via3.com/. Live Meeting can be downloaded for from http://www.microsoft.com/.