As Cisco promised, its web-conferencing service WebEx is becoming free. True, the number of free conference hosts (i.e. users that can create and manage online meetings) was reduced from 3 to 1. But the free disk space was increased up to 1 GB. The free online meeting can support up to 25 people simultaneously and provide the variety of tools: screen-sharing, whiteboard, remote control, file sharing, presentations, VoIP, video in HD-format, recording. You might be surprised that the service is currently in Beta status (after all, WebEx has been the web-conferencing market leader for many years). The fact that it's not just the free version. It's a new version of WebEx, which in addition to web-conferencing adds a workspace for collaboration before and after online meeting.
Finally, the most popular Web-conferencing service Cisco WebEx is getting closer to small business. At the Collaboration Summit in Miami Cisco has introduced the new version of Webex and the subscription free plan for 3 people and 250 MB of space. In addition to basic functions (screen-sharing, whiteboard, online presentations, document collaboration, VoIP and instant messaging) the free version also provides video conferencing (but not in HD-quality). Of course, there are several other web-conferencing services that offer free version, but WebEx differs by high quality and extensive functionality. According to the Cisco representatives the free version is already available, but we couldn't find it on the WebEx site. So, let's wait. We also have to wait till Q1 2012 for the new version of WebEx, which includes the very interesting feature - online workspace.
In the light of the recent HP story, it's interesting to watch what's happening in another IT giant - Cisco. Like HP, Cisco was built on manufacturing computer hardware. The peak success of the company came in the early 2000's when Cisco passed Microsoft and became the most valuable company in the world. It was then called "the company that is building the Internet" because more than 80% of routers in the Internet were manufactured by Cisco. But then the company became the victim of it's own success.
It's not a secret that the iPad has no camera, because Steve Jobs hopes to collect another $1K from his loyal customers for this feature in next version. And most likely, he would succeed in the consumer market, but the enterprise market is now a big question. Because mobile videoconferencing - is the main advantage of such tablets over netbooks and smartphones for business. And because today Cisco introduced its tablet Cisco Cius, targeted directly at web-conferencing and business video applications. First of all - Cisco business apps: Webex, Quad, Cisco Telepresence. But since the device is running Android OS - it is open for solutions from any vendor.
So, iPad is now available in US and like Avatar is breaking all records (already about 400 thousand devices are sold). The first users have already downloaded several millions iPad applications, but most of them are consumer apps, rather than business applications. As we noted earlier, iPad has a little chance to become a revolutionary business tool. And not just because of the lack of webcam, multitasking, Flash support and security measures. Despite its originality, iPad will compete in the corporate market with an army of netbooks and smartphones (including iPhone). But certainly iPad will be useful for business of software vendors, which have already begun to announce iPad clients to get the customer attention.
The same day, when Microsoft released Exchange 2010, its competitor, Cisco, impressed the IT world with numerous product introductions across all categories of its collaboration portfolio. The company unveiled the enhanced unified communication system, three new intranet and social software solutions. But the most significant new product is Cisco WebEx Mail that will compete with MS Exchange. It integrates some of the technology Cisco acquired when it purchased PostPath in 2008 and Webex Mail service. The mail difference from Exchange is that it's the SaaS solution. Users can access their mail and calendar through browser web interface or sync it with their mobile client (Blackberry, iPhone, ActiveSync). As for the desktop client, Cisco Webex Mail is intended to use MS Outlook. The developers boast of the complete integration with Outlook, including email, calendar, notes and shared folders.
Despite all expectations, Skype didn't lock video mail (introduced in winter) in the premium version. Today Skype announced that this new feature is out of beta and is available to all users for free. In addition, video messaging becomes available in Windows-client and Blackberry app (at first it only worked on Mac, iOS and Android). Only Windows Phone users remain disadvantaged. How to use Skype Video Messaging? Watch the video.
Almost 300 million people around the world use Skype. This is a very large customer base, that's why many companies add skype-address to their contacts in order to offer customers a convenient communication channel. But in large companies using Skype at the workplace - doesn't fit the corporate security policy. Therefore, the integration of Skype with Lync communication server can become a breakthrough for deploying Skype in large companies. And thus Microsoft can get a significant competitive advantage over Cisco, Avaya and other enterprise communication vendors. That's was the main reason why Microsoft acquired Skype for a lot of money.
Finally Microsoft begins to integrate Skype into its products. The main competitor Google already for a long time provides the chat with voice and video in the email service GMail. Therefore from the Microsoft's side (having the Skype) it would be a crime not to add the same functionality into the Outlook.com. And that's exactly what they done. True, for now this feature is only available in UK and only in few weeks it will appear for the rest of us. To enable chat, voice and video calls in your Outlook.com inbox, you'll have to install the browser plug-in (for Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox) like in the GMail. You can use Skype with your existing Microsoft account, so you don't have to create a new account. If you already have a Skype account, you can link it to your Microsoft account - your Skype contacts will appear in your contact list and you can call or message them directly from Outlook.com.
Recently Skype started the strange attempt to create a business social network (or community) Skype In The Workspace. Now another startup Promaket is trying to create something similar. And it looks like their version make more sense. At least, in Promarket the communication space is divided by industry and focused on buy/sell transactions. For example, if you are selling fish, you enter the Fish chat and spam other fish-traders with your offers, or read their offers. Chat can be filtered by different keywords or by subject (buy / sell). And if you find an interesting offer - you can contact its author via private chat or make a Skype call.
Looks like Microsoft has an overload of ideas on what to do with Skype, and these is no one who can kill these ideas in time. The new service called Skype In The Workspace is a combination of social network and a freelance marketplace for entrepreneurs and small businesses. There you can post opportunities (or projects) and invite people to discuss them. Of course, the discussions are hold in Skype. According to Microsoft, the service has been tested for 6 months, and now it comes out of beta. But it looks very primitive, incomplete and still haven't gained any popularity among uses. Although, there is one interesting thing in it - the authorization. It's possible not only via Skype ID, but also using your LinkedIn credentials (and no other options). So, this is one more addition to rumors that Microsoft may acquire LinkedIn.
Glorious 12-year history of Microsoft's Windows-messenger is coming to the end. The company begins transition of 100 million Windows Live Messenger users to Skype (which currently counts 280 million users). The latest version Skype 6.0 (for Windows and Mac) already allows to login using a Microsoft account. After doing so, Messenger contacts are brought over as well. Now it's interesting whether the quality of communication in Skype will suffer after such a significant increase in user base. According to numerous users, Skype quality has already started to degrade in recent month, probably because of Microsoft's manipulations for integrating Skype into its products. Recall, Microsoft acquired Skype last year for $8.5 billion. Later it turned out that Microsoft, paid billions because of its senior executive, Joe Williams, who ran the Microsoft Lync business, believed that Skype was going to eat Microsoft’s lunch in the enterprise.
Skype has never been a complete communication app for smartphones. At first because of the lack of multitasking, then, because it didn't work in the sleep mode, and then, because Skype quickly drain battery. But in the new operating system Windows Phone 8 (which was released yesterday) all these problems are solved. While Microsoft didn't dare to inbuild Skype in the desktop version Windows 8 (to avoid antitrust problems), no one stopped the company of making Skype an integrated part of the mobile OS Windows Phone (at the hardware level). It's fully integrated with phone contacts and allows to receive calls in the same way as calls via the regular GSM network (of course if you have internet connection). So now, buying Windows Phone, you are buying not just a mobile computer, but also an ideal terminal for free/cheap communication.