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Cisco Enhances WebEx Meeting Service, Adds Microsoft Office Links

MeetMeNow integrates data, voice, and video in an online meetings application that can be launched from the desktop and instant messaging clients.

Cisco Systems' newly acquired collaboration applications company WebEx Communications on Thursday launched a new version of its Web meeting service that includes several enhancements for Microsoft Office.

The service, called MeetMeNow, costs $50 a month and is meant for individual professionals interested in holding meetings on the Web. MeetMeNow integrates data, voice, and video in an online meetings application that can be launched from the desktop, Microsoft Outlook, and Office, and instant messaging clients like Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, or AOL AIM.

Cisco said users won't experience network congestion or reliability issues since MeetMeNow is provided on WebEx's MediaTone Network, which is specifically designed for delivering on-demand applications.

"With the increasing prevalence of video hardware in entry-level personal computers, MeetMeNow can make face-to-face video meetings a reality for businesspeople in a company of any size. By adding tight integration with a productivity suite, WebEx allows users to launch meetings from within the context of their work," said Ilan Kasan, director of product management at Cisco WebEx, in a statement.

The latest version of MeetMeNow comes with several new video capabilities. For example, it automatically finds and configures a user's camera, and it allows a meeting host to switch between any of the meeting participants' video streams to form a virtual roundtable. MeetMeNow also now integrates with Microsoft's Office suite, making it easier for a user to launch a meeting while they're working on a Word documents or an Excel spreadsheet.

WebEx holds two-thirds of the estimated $550 million hosted collaboration services market, according to Forrester Research. Its products are mostly for Web-based meetings using audio, PowerPoint slides, and file sharing, though it also has video and chat features.

Cisco completed its $3.2billion acquisition of WebEx in May, moving the networking giant into closer competition with Microsoft in unified communications and collaboration. Cisco's chief development officer Charles Giancarlo said the company's plans include integrating Cisco's voice and video products into the WebEx offering. The new capabilities introduced in the latest version of MeetMeNow are a sign that Cisco is on track with its plans.

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