The overlapping worlds of unified communications and Web conferencing are growing increasingly competitive and confusing.
The latest news is IBM's purchase of WebDialogs, which vnunet.com says has more than 500,000 users. Ovum analyst Ian Wesley says the deal appears to be IBM's response to Cisco's acquisition of WebEx this spring. That deal, Wesley says, was bad news for IBM both because it may have been interested in buying the company itself and because it switched Cisco from being a potential partner to being a competitor. Wesley said that WebDialogs will add a software-as-a-service element to IBM's Sametime family. The functionality is expected to be particularly attractive to small and medium-sized companies.
In more Sametime news, Polycom and IBM announced Polycom Unified Collaboration for Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes. The companies -- which made the announcement this week at VoiceCon -- said that the addition enables the launching of point-to-point and multi-point voice, video and combined voice and video conferences from Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes.
Web conferencing is a tremendous growth area both because of the revenue it generates and the number of advanced IP technologies it can include. Web conferencing is positioned as a key in this Seattle Post-Intelligencer story detailing possible detente between Cisco and Microsoft. It would seem possible for the companies to cooperate, since their expertise -- Cisco's in networking and Microsoft's in applications -- is complementary. Whether the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is too tempting to make common sense prevail remains to be seen. What is clear is that unified communications and Web conferencing will be front and center as the landscape evolves.
Web conferencing is not totally located in the land of the giants, however. This post shows at least one site's take on the top services. All Conference Services offers a tremendous amount of valuable information on the topic. A good example of a package from an obscure source is presented in this ITWorldCanada story detailing ePresence Interactive Media, an open source platform developed by the University of Toronto's Knowledge Media Design Institute. The platform -- which includes Webcasting, conferencing and a rich media publishing tool, according to the story -- is in its fourth iteration. Version 4.0 features ePresenceTV, an application that enables YouTube-like video sharing with desktop sharing.
For those willing to look for it, there still is an entrepreneurial element to the world of Web conferencing. This commentary at Zen and the Art of Nonprofit Technology looks at the selection of a service from the users' point of view. Michelle Murrain decided, "perhaps rashly," to train people on open source in this manner. She looked for seven capabilities in the platform, and reported that none of the systems she tried -- ReadyTalk, Web Huddle, DimDim, Yugma, Adobe Connect and what apparently is a proprietary system -- offered them all. ReadyTalk was the best, but is pricey. Murrain said she may end up using WebHuddle.