WebEx adds one-click meetings

FRAMINGHAM (10/24/2003) - WebEx Communications Inc. this week rolled out a number of enhancements to its Web conferencing service, including the ability to launch a meeting from any Windows application.

Customers now can set up a meeting from any Windows program by right-clicking and selecting the WebEx meeting option. WebEx also is adding Meeting Center Web conference access to the Microsoft Office toolbar and offering integration with Outlook, letting end users schedule a WebEx meeting in the calendar dialog.

The Windows integration effort seems to mirror what Microsoft Corp. is doing with its Live Meeting Web conferencing offering (formerly PlaceWare), a chief competitor.

"Web conferencing is big into scheduling, but it won't be part of the way we work until it is part of our ad hoc culture," says Andy Nilssen, a senior analyst with Wainhouse Research Inc. "One-click starts making Web conferencing more ingrained into the way we work."

WebEx also now offers multipoint video capability, letting any participant with a basic Webcam be seen by others during a conference. Admittedly, the company is not honing in on the traditional videoconferencing vendors. "This is not designed to compete with the Polycoms of the world. It's basic video to enhance the WebEx experience," says Praful Shah, vice president of strategic communications at WebEx.

Other additions to the service include a new note-taking panel to let meeting minutes be recorded, and the ability to provide meeting transcripts (minutes, presentations and documents used) to participants when the conference ends.

WebEx says existing customers will get the new features automatically. Pricing remains the same, with a US$100 per port, per month, charge for the basic service and $200 per port, per month, fee for advanced features. Audioconferencing is billed separately through WebEx, or customers can integrate their existing audio services.

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