The growing popularity and implementation of web conferencing services has changed business-to-business interactions. Particularly, the GOOD OLD days of small meeting rooms, auditoriums, large conference facilities and business travel have passed. Web conferencing has made it easy. If you want face-to-face interaction with your client or an employee who is sitting thousands of miles away, all you need is a broadband connection, a laptop, a Webcam and a subscription for unlimited conferencing. Web conferencing services have contributed to increased productivity and efficiency of staff and provided the ability to receive and send information at all hours of the day, no matter what time zone you are in.
With expanding internet broadband connection, increasing airline ticket prices and the increasing popularity of home based work, web conferencing solutions have enabled enterprises to spark interactive discussions. As the web conferencing industry is growing, many IT giants have introduced various cost-effective, sophisticated web conferencing solutions; some of which are free and some that come at a cost. Now, web conferencing has become an important tool for both personal and business communications.
When I looked around for the best video conferencing software based on their reliability, pricing, and set of useful features, I found Adobe Acrobat Connect, Citrix GoToMeeting, IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte Meeting, WebEx MeetMeNow, Microsoft Office Live Meeting and Google Hangout as prominent players in this industry. While each of these products presents their own advantages and specific features, the question that is on everyone’s mind is will Google Hangout, the cool, new, web conferencing product from Google, be a threat to the other Web Conferencing Services.
While the potential advantages of video conferencing features of Google Hangout are appealing, it may increase the competition among the web conferencing players. Hangouts is one of the many new features of Google+, and it gives people a way to connect with up to nine individuals at once. One advantage that they have over many of the other web conferencing services is that they are not targeting themselves as a ‘web conferencing’ service, but as a cool new way to connect with individuals. Since so many people are on Google ever day, either with G-Mail or Circles, they automatically had the ability to gain exposure and introduce their new product to millions of people.
However, Google Hangout is not the only one to offer free web conferencing services. There are many other companies that offer free, simple and easily accessible online meeting services. Last year, LiveMinutes launched free, simple document-based web conferencing service. More recently, AnyMeeting, the completely free web conferencing and webinar service, introduced ‘’ Meet and Win’ content for users that will enable users to win a new Kindle Fire. The consumers will have more chances to win, if they have more meetings. This contest will run through February 29th , 2012.
Competition between Web-conferencing vendors heats up:
As the competition among web video conference companies is rising, we could see more and more companies are adding video calling and conferencing capabilities to web-conferencing services while including other voice value added services. Last month, Ramon Ray, Owner of Smallbiztechnology.com was on a Google Hangout live with President Obama . It is not surprising to see Google trying to compete aggressively in collaboration software such as IM and conferencing.
I contacted Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco’s Webex, to get their take on Google Hangout, but both companies declined to comment, citing that they do not comment on their competition but concentrate on their own products they offer to the market. James New, APAC Marketing Manager at Citrix GoTo Meeting did offer, “There has always been consumer solutions in the market for conferencing – even when GoToMeeting first came to market; web conferencing continues to grow as the networking technology is more pervasive and more people find the need to connect with colleagues/family/friends distributed broadly.” He continued with “Until 2011, when Citrix introduced GoToMeeting with HD Faces, to get the quality face-to-face high definition video experience, you were limited to expensive telepresence solutions that were onsite/on premise only and still required individuals to get to a specific location. We are bringing that high-end “built-for-business” quality to a broader base of business users with no additional cost and making it simple to use. ”
The competition among these companies will be fascinating to watch!
Certainly, ‘Google Hangout’ is the cool new way to connect. Essentially the company is just extending the already free call from Gmail service into Google+ hangout. I believe that the Hangout feature can lure more people to Google+ and grow its user base. It seems Google is hitting many birds with one stone. With Google hangout the company that is adding more people to Google+, on the other hand it is capturing the market share of other web conferencing companies.