adds conferencing to collaboration tools

FRAMINGHAM (02/23/2004) - Inc. this week will add conferencing and group scheduling features to its suite of hosted collaboration software. The features will let corporations host Web- and audio conferences, as well as provide users with shared scheduling services and the ability to book conference rooms, projectors and other resources as part of the scheduling.

The collaboration tools are aimed at small to midsized companies or departmental deployments within larger companies. The hosted software competes with Microsoft Corp.'s premise-based software SharePoint Portal Server. The new Web and audio conferencing features will compete with Microsoft Live Meeting, a hosted service that is part of its collaboration suite that includes SharePoint, and with online conferencing provider WebEx Communications Inc.

"The key thing is that this is a suite of applications and it is integrated," says Laurie McCabe, an analyst with Summit Strategies. "These are the kinds of services and price points that are on target for small and medium-sized businesses."

The collaboration tools start at US$99.95 per month, which includes 25 seats. WebEx and Live Meeting both have $375 starting points that include five seats.

McCabe says also is attractive to departments within large companies because "you don't have to wait for IT to set it up."'s conferencing capabilities let teams of users to conduct online meetings in real time. The software includes application and document sharing, whiteboards, chat and polling. The service does not have videoconferencing. also includes integrated controls for the audio portion of the conference. The company hosts the PBX that handles the audio and provides a Web-based user interface that controls the disconnection of users, line muting and roll call. Users also can record the audio for future playback. The set-up feature automatically assigns a password code and telephone number for all conferences and sends the information out to invitees via Microsoft Outlook.

The group-scheduling feature lets users see free/busy time on invitees' calendars and block off time on those calendars. The calendaring features can be synched with Outlook and Palm.

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