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MCI And Microsoft Partner On Conferencing

MCI on Tuesday revealed a partnership with Microsoft to jointly develop and market video conferencing and collaboration tools.

The first result of the collaboration, released Tuesday as MCI Net Conferencing services, uses Microsoft's Live Meeting technology running over MCI's telecommunications network to let users launch Web conferences and other collaboration tools directly from Microsoft applications. Pricing depends on the number of users and the amount of time used.

"Our goal is to be able to sit at any point in an application, or to go into Windows, and be able to have shared content delivery and be able to collaborate," MCI CEO Michael Capellas said in his opening keynote speech at the NetWorld+Interop conference in Las Vegas. "You don't have to go through and do any restructuring on your network. ... You don't have to spend all that time building a videoconferencing system. ... You can be in and out, and it's all quick and all done through a set of standards."

The partnership intends to develop applications for IP telephony and allow users to set up and participate in conference calls, all from within Microsoft Office. "Our dream here is that this is where it starts," Capellas said. "But at the end of the day, we will completely embed telephony into the desktop." The news comes only a day after MCI released lower-than-expected financial results for its first quarter, ended March 31. The company posted a net loss of $388 million, or $1.19 a share, down from income of $52 million in the same period last year. Revenue was down to $6.3 billion from $7.2 billion. MCI blamed the decline in part on price competition thanks to new technologies such as voice over IP, as well as a drop in long-distance calling because of federal prohibitions on telemarketing.

In response to the shortfalls, MCI said it would cut more than 7,500 jobs (about 15% of its workforce) by year's end. The layoffs would be only the latest at the rapidly contracting company; in March, MCI cut 4,000 telemarketing call-center jobs, and in January, it cut 1,700 operations jobs.

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