Adding Conferencing To IP Phones Ups Value - InformationWeek

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11/14/2003
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Adding Conferencing To IP Phones Ups Value

Cisco will add Latitude's MeetingPlace Web and voice-conferencing products

Few business people use IP phones. Cisco Systems hopes to change that by adding collaboration and Web-conferencing capabilities to the handsets and to its videoconferencing equipment. That's one reason Cisco last week said it will buy Latitude Communications Inc., the maker of MeetingPlace Web and voice-conferencing products. Cisco will rebrand and sell Latitude's products and use the technology to enhance its own gear.

Cisco says that would let users of its IP phones schedule, attend, and manage meetings using those devices. Combining collaboration technology with voice-over-IP systems is "a natural," says Wainhouse Research analyst Andy Nilssen. "This adds tremendous value to the IP environment. When you can sit there and very easily add [Web] conference capability, you've just upped the value of the system."

chartLatitude has 183 employees. In its most recent fiscal quarter, the company reported a net loss of $1.5 million, or 8 cents per share, on revenue of $8.6 million. But with the marketing clout of Cisco behind it, the acquisition is likely to prove a source of profit. "The general enterprise marketplace is embracing Web conferencing with open arms," Nilssen says.

Latitude isn't the only conferencing vendor to be acquired. In April, Microsoft bought PlaceWare Inc., one of Latitude's major competitors. Cisco and Microsoft will provide tougher competition for Web-conferencing market leader WebEx Communications Inc. The three-way battle should provide users with choices as Web conferencing becomes more popular. (For more on collaboration, see story "Real-Time Teamwork".)

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