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Cisco, Microsoft Will Be The Big Conferencing Players

For the last 10 years, the electronic conferencing world has tended to focus on high-end solutions such as those from Polycom. Think of special conference rooms, expensive WAN links, special equipment, and so on.

Over the last five years, PC-based solutions have been evolving. IBM/Lotus has been an innovator. Microsoft has gradually been building a position through Office Communications Server and Live Meeting. Ditto Cisco, around WebEx.

It’s clear that PC-based solutions will dominate this market before long. They are much cheaper and are simpler to use, both from the user and the IT standpoint. PC-based will be constantly improving and constantly eating in to high end systems’ capabilities. Video images will be of ever-higher quality, for example.

My hunch is that not merely will high end solutions be marginalized, but they will also be driven out of business. There will be a market for high-end conferencing solutions, but they will be based on commodity PC technology.

Microsoft overall has the advantage in this market, because it can provide the most user- and IT-familiar technology. Expect strong competition from Cisco over the next few years. Hopefully, the competition from IBM/Lotus will also be strong: it has much going for it.

David Ferris

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