The crew in Mountain View apparently has time (and certainly money) to spare as evidenced by yesterday’s quiet announcement that Google had acquired Marratech, a Swedish video conferencing provider. They now join Cisco, who just acquired WebEx, and Microsoft, who has Office Live Meeting acquired with PlaceWare, in the scramble for the “unified communications” dollars.
Cisco seemingly reverted to its dotcom boom ways of expansion through acquisition today when it plunked down $3.2B for WebEx, the leader in Web conferencing. Scott Fulton at BetaNews reviews the state of play:
Throughout its history, Cisco has built its vast portfolio talents through mergers and acquisitions. Indeed, startups in the networking field intentionally developed business plans and product portfolios designed to attract a Cisco buyout. But with two new Cisco buyouts this week — storage appliance producer NeoPath Networks on Tuesday, and collaboration software developer WebEx this morning — Cisco appears not just to be building up but building out. And today, analysts believe Microsoft may be on notice.
It’s all part of Cisco’s Unified Communications push which has gotten a lot of notice lately and not coincidentally Unified Communications is the name of the Microsoft Business Division group charged with cornering the business communications market and whose Office Live Meeting Product (created from the 2003 acquisition of PlaceWare) is reported to be number 2 in the Web conferencing market and looks to be clearly in the path of the steamroller
Juan Carlos Perez at InfoWorld:
America Online is developing a version of its instant messaging (IM) service for workplace use, an attempt to give the consumer-oriented AIM the security, collaboration, and IT management features businesses require, the Dulles, Virginia company plans to announce on Tuesday.
Developed with online meeting specialist WebEx Communications, the new AIM Pro will become available in this year’s second quarter. Pricing details haven’t been finalized, but it will probably be offered on a per-user monthly subscription model, executives from AOL and WebEx said.
AIM, the most widely used IM service, is designed for personal use, but many workplaces have adopted it. This causes IT departments problems when they can’t manage, secure, and log their users’ IM communications.
To address this issue, AOL partners with IM gateway providers, whose software gives IT departments some control over the medium. AOL also collaborated with Microsoft to make AIM compatible with Microsoft’s LCS enterprise IM platform. Similar support is in development for IBM’s Sametime enterprise IM platform.
However, with AIM Pro, AOL is moving into competition with IBM, Microsoft, and other enterprise IM providers, the executives acknowledged. AIM Pro’s hosted, on-demand model will be an attractive alternative to the platform approach of IBM and Microsoft, which costs more and requires in-house installation and management of an IM server, they said.
The latter is the key difference, of course. If you want to roll out Microsoft Office Communicator to the troops for IM, you need to install and maintain Office Live Communications Server while AOL will offer a fully hosted solution. That’s the same distinction as that between Windows Live Hosted Domains and Google’s hosted email service.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with Microsoft’s current approach – it’s the traditional enterprise software model. It’s just that to get to where they profess to want to go with the alternative “Live” model of hosted Internet services, they are going to have to play catch up with competitors like AOL and Google who are already there.