In a few years, we have witnessed a recomposition of the landscape in the areas of Web Conferencing, Audio Conferencing and Video Conferencing. Formerly separated, they have converged, as well as hosted services and software in license mode. These phenomena have been favored by the entry, or the reinforcement through redemptions, of Microsoft, IBM and Cisco.
- Web Conferencing: Real-time Collaborative Work Functions
This term covers real-time collaborative work applications accessible through the browser, at least for the participants, because the organizer often needs specific client software. Key features include document sharing, interactive whiteboard, remote control, instant messaging, surveys, meeting recordings (sent to each participant).
The organizer can prepare a virtual meeting, which is to launch invitations and send documents and questionnaires (in order to conduct surveys). It may also moderate the meeting by controlling the interventions or display of the documents presented.
- SaaS Services or Conventional Software: Convergence
Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, and ezTalks all offer Web Conferencing offerings in traditional (licensed) or Saas (ie, hosted) mode, with a user interface which are now very similar in both modes. A company will be able to stick to the SaaS mode as long as the use remains occasional or turned outwards, then migrate to the mode license.
Some actors also distinguish SaaS and hosted mode. “So far in hosted mode, our Lotus SametimeUnyte offer has just gone into SaaS, which is differentiated by a pooling of resources to interconnect communities of different customers,” explains Patrice Fontaine, Lotus product manager at IBM.
- Audio and Video Now Integrated with Web Conferencing
For a long time, the Audio Conferencing was disconnected from the web conferencing. On one hand, users log on to a web application, on the other hand, launch an Audio Conference via the company’s PBX or by using an outsourced audio service offered by Orange Business Services, Premiere Global Services or MeetingOne.
Today, audio and video are becoming more and more integrated. Firstly, because Web Conferencing offerings directly support these media on the PC (VoIP and peer-to-peer video), then because they integrate with internal telephony and ToIP, conference services audio outsourcing, or video conferencing solutions. Such an integration makes it possible, from the application of Web Conferencing to manage the connections of the users to the audio or video conference.
- Integration with Collaborative Work
In addition, Web Conferencing solutions are increasingly integrated with traditional collaborative work tools – Exchange and Outlook, or Lotus Notes. From these, it becomes possible to verify the presence of future participants in a virtual meeting and then to launch invitations to them. This integration is complete when the offer is homogeneous (IBM Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes, or Microsoft Exchange and Office Communications Server), but Cisco has made efforts to combine its MeetingPlace offer with Exchange.
This integration extends to mobile terminals. For example, Cisco’s offer has recently allowed a graphic presentation to be introduced to a smartphone (Nokia, iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile) participating in an audio conference.