It's Not Just V over IP Any More

Audio-video Web conferencing is fast becoming a must-have tool for workgroups.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Aug 26, 2005
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Earlier this week, San Diego-based WiredRed Software announced an upgrade to its e/pop Web Conferencing product, which can now be launched from within any Microsoft Office application.

As EnterpriseVoIPplanet is always interested in the ways various IP communications technologies are coming together to increase productivity and enable innovation in business processes, we set up a briefing with the folks at WiredRed to find out more.

In a nutshell, e/pop Web Conferencing uses IP-based audio and video to connect any number of conference participants. In conference, workgroup members can share documents, such as spreadsheets, CAD drawings, page layouts, text documents, even full fledged, full-screen slide presentations, in real time. Also available are desktop sharing and remote control, if needed. (Remember PC Anywhere?) These combined features make e/pop capable of facilitating a wide range of business requirements from basic group discussion to remote tech support.

"To make e/pop stand out from the conferencing crowd, we decided to build in multiparty video, and make the software really easy to install," WiredRed CEO Steve Peltier told EntepriseVoIPplanet. With multiparty video, everyone in the conference (who wishes to) runs a minicam, so all participants see each other all the time. There's a wide range of screen layout controls available to the conference host, to be able to accommodate various viewing requirements.

Finally, a recording feature lets the host capture the entire session (as opposed to only document or slide images) for storage, which can be useful on a number of levels. According to Peltier, at least one of the company's customers has used e/pop to stage and record sales presentations by technology vendors, with the recordings then becoming a permanent record of statements and promises.

Unique to e/pop in the web conferencing market is the product's availability either as outright purchase customer premise equipment (installable in five minutes, according to company literature) or as a hosted service.

Getting back to this week's announcement, not only does the latest Web Conferencing upgrade provide launch buttons that live in any Microsoft application, Outlook can serve as a centralized tool for setting up conferences. Users can create workgroups (akin to e-mail groups), invite members with a single click, and use Outlook's calendar facilities to fine-tune scheduling.

"As a matter of fact," Peltier told EnterpriseVoIPplanet, "you can integrate the e/pop controls into just about any third-party application—and share those document formats. With this interface and integration, conferencing becomes an Internet appliance," he said.

"The productivity gains and cost savings really help sell this software," Peltier told VoIPplanet. He referenced Tindall Corp., a South-Carolina-based concrete products company with several branch offices that spent about $45,000 last fall rebuilding its network and implementing e/pop Web Conferencing. "Tindall expects to save somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 in employee travel in the first year of operation," Peltier said.

"It's very popular in banking, financial services, savings and loan," Peltier went on. "Any business where you have lots of little offices and people need face time. And law offices, too. Lawyers use it to take depositions remotely, and that sort of thing."

"We're blown away by how many customers are using the video," he continued. "What we've found is that people didn't know you could do multi-party video. They start out thinking it's a 'nice-to-have' feature, but after they've tried it, they feel they can't live without it."

The foundation of WiredRed's application product line (which includes, Secure Instant Messaging and Active Alert Messaging in addition to Web Conferencing) is its Real-Time Routing Platform™. According to Peltier, " Unlike most of our competitors, who use UDP, we use TCP. As networks become more complex, TCP gives us a greater and greater advantage," he said.

"We license our Real-Time Routing Platform and applications to third parties," Peltier continued. "There are some big companies out there whose products are built on our platform," he said, mentioning Mitel's VoIP phone systems as an example.

As to the market potential for integrated audio-video web conferencing technology, Peltier told VoIPplanet that, "depending on what analyst you talk to, the market today is pegged at somewhere between $1.4 and $3 billion, annually. If you just add up the sales of WiredRed and its main competitors—WebEx, Microsoft LiveMeeting, Raindance, Polycom—it's certainly about a billion."

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