No. 2 in the hosted collaboration market is Microsoft's Office Live Meeting, with an 18% share, Forrester says. Microsoft has offered Live Meeting since it acquired PlaceWare in 2003, and the company says a new version is due soon. Citrix Systems offers a similar hosted service called GoToMeeting, and Hewlett-Packard launched Halo, a high-end videoconferencing service, in 2005. Polycom also competes with WebOffice conferencing and RPX for telepresence. IBM has on-premises Lotus Web Conferencing that includes application sharing and optional voice and videoconferencing, plus its lineup of Lotus collaboration apps from Notes e-mail to its upcoming Quickr collaboration portal.
Cisco's moving fast, though. Since last summer, it has made six acquisitions in the area of collaboration. Last June, it acquired Metreos and Audium for their application integration and development environments for voice applications. In October, it bought Orative to extend its unified communications portfolio to cell phones and smartphones. Then came two companies with social networking assets--Five Across and parts of Utah Street Networks. Those social networking tools could potentially be bundled into WebEx, too.
Cisco understands it will soon find itself in a collaboration market centered around software. Cisco is taking a more holistic view of networking, one that encompasses not only routers and switches, but also human interaction, writ large.
Cisco's always been an acquirer, and Giancarlo says that will continue, with big deals like WebEx that bring in technology and a customer base, and smaller deals like Orative, whose technology already has been integrated into Cisco's unified communications line. It'll be more complicated, however, for Cisco to figure out what features should be in each of its many tiers of conferencing technology, from Web-based WebEx to MeetingPlace to its ultra-high-end telepresence systems.
WebEx illustrates the challenge that awaits Cisco as it targets technology end users. Cisco paid a 23% premium for WebEx, a product that delighted users with its simplicity. Cisco needs to make WebEx part of its larger product portfolio and add features, without killing WebEx's ease of use in the process. It's a challenge Cisco's main rival in collaboration, Microsoft, knows all too well.