Video: Can WebEx Banish The Boring Phone Meeting? - InformationWeek

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5/7/2008
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Alexander Wolfe
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Video: Can WebEx Banish The Boring Phone Meeting?

Corporate calling. Corporate who? Long, boring, time-wasting, day-deadening, you can't get out of it, corporate online Web and phone meeting, that's who. (This is my Internet Age version of a knock, knock joke, and just about as unfunny.) But if all-hands-on-deck meetings are like death and taxes -- i.e., unavoidable -- at least WebEx is working to energize them so that they'll be more useful. Call it collaboration on Web steroids.

Corporate calling. Corporate who? Long, boring, time-wasting, day-deadening, you can't get out of it, corporate online Web and phone meeting, that's who. (This is my Internet Age version of a knock, knock joke, and just about as unfunny.) But if all-hands-on-deck meetings are like death and taxes -- i.e., unavoidable -- at least WebEx is working to energize them so that they'll be more useful. Call it collaboration on Web steroids."We're going through a transition from communications to true collaboration," Doug Dennerline, general manager of WebEX and senior VP of Cisco's collaboration software group, told me during a chat at the recent Web 2.0 Expo, which I helpfully videotaped (see below). "Today we sell meetings to departments. We're moving towards selling true collaboration capability."

In that vein, WebEx last year opened up its APIs so that third-party software vendors could begin to develop applications, as part of the company's WebEx Connect Developer Network. The idea was to enable WebEx to plug into the corporate content clients need to access when they're trying to work together.

From an initial five partners, WebEx now has some 70 third-party software vendors who've built collaboration-oriented apps. They'll be offered to users, directory-style, via The WebEx Marketplace, which will officially launch in a couple of months.

Hey, I get that this stuff sometimes reads like a bunch of gobbledygook. And, let's face it, it's hard to make group phone calls sound interesting. Nevertheless, this is important stuff. (Hey, I'd pay real money if I could turn some of the meetings I've been stuck in into time not completely wasted. I bet you would, too.)

It's all the more significant, since it's seriously connected to the catch-phrase du jour: Cloud computing. When you think about it, what is collaboration among large groups of physically separated users, who're all sharing multiple data types. "We've come out with a nice, immersive capability that we're calling the 'Web Top'," said Dennerline. "We want to become to the Web what Office and Windows has been to the desktop."

"When you run a WebEx meeting today, what you don't realize is you're running over a very large cloud network and it's making sure that the data, audio, and video will get to the other side at the exact same time," he said. "There's a lot of technology [behind that]. We're on the fifth generation of that today."

So check out my video chat with Dennerline to hear more:

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