Skype and the like saw a bit trouble this week with the announcement of a new Web-conferencing package for SMBs. WebEx 8 offers online meetings for US$ 19 per month, enabling Cisco (news, site) to better compete for business among smaller companies.
WebEx has traditionally been an online video conferencing/meeting service for enterprise-grade players with fat pockets. The cheapest plan, which supports 1 host with up to 25 people per meeting, runs US$ 50 per month. That is, until now.
WebEx 8 offers the same functionality as the other plans, with one exception: instead of 25 people per meeting, you’re limited to 8. Beyond that, the plans pretty much match feature-by-feature. Some of the highlights:
- Unlimited meetings
- Desktop Sharing/File Sharing
- Meeting recording
- Outlook integration
Here's a quick look at how joining a meeting works:
Cisco's hat-tip to the smaller guys can be partially attributed to recent moves from other large players. Google stands out in particular here with the release of Hangouts.
As a part of the Plus bundle, Google's built-in multi-user video chat tool has all the makings of a professional platform. The potential is obvious right off the bat: rather than ping people in order to initiate a conversation like you would with a traditional application, you literally 'hang out' in a room by advertising your presence with your your camera stream. If nobody is available to chat, you can let the app run in the background while you work. And, because it's browser based there's no extra launching needed, and the approach allows for much more spontaneous collaboration than most.
Even with their trusty iPhone/iPad apps, the WebEx team's key selling points are beginning to look a little dull -- and fairly expensive -- in comparison. Perhaps the SMB boost will be just what they need.
The US$19 plan is live as of now, but if you remain skeptical you can always go take the free trial for a spin.