Web conferencing has been hailed as a panacea for companies during down times before, but the SAAS (software as a service) model may be the thing that tips the technology into ubiquity. With SAAS, companies no longer have to load fat clients onto end users' machines, and can pay as they go.
In this area, Cisco's WebEx is king, Jain said, noting that the subscription model will prove attractive to users who want to pay per month. While Jain wouldn't provide specific numbers, she said Cisco WebEx is the market leader by a "wide margin," followed by Microsoft Office Live Meeting.
Despite Cisco WebEx's robust lead, June Bower, vice president of marketing in Cisco's WebEx Technology Group, told eWEEK there remains plenty of green field in the market: Only 1 percent of the 80 million or so knowledge workers in the United States is using some form of collaboration software.
Bower refused to provide hard sales numbers, but she did say traffic to the Cisco WebEx site was up 20 percent in recent months, which she equates to digital window shopping during the recession.
Microsoft, meanwhile, believes customers in the current economic climate are worried not only about how to save money but also how to increase productivity. Betsy Frost, general manager for unified communications at Microsoft, said demand for Web conferencing and broader UCC software packages is strong among companies executing mergers and acquisitions in different industries.
These companies need to integrate different systems, and Microsoft aims to help them with the Office Communications Server UCC suite, or even just with Office Live Meeting.
Cisco and Microsoft easily hold half the Web conferencing market share, but Citrix Online's GotoMeeting Web conferencing software is No. 3 in revenue market share in the hosted Web conferencing services market, thanks to a strong uptick among small and midsize businesses in the last few years, Jain said.
Bernardo de Albergaria, vice president and general manager of global marketing and e-commerce at Citrix Online, said Citrix is attuned to the recession, which is why the company is extending its 30-day free trial to 60 days to give prospective customers more time to try before they buy.
In the on-premises Web conferencing software market, IBM Sametime, which ties Web conferencing with presence and instant messaging, is the dominant market leader, followed by Adobe Connect. IBM's installed base of approximately 20 million licensed Sametime users-and many more Notes users who have some Sametime installed-gives the vendor a tremendous reach and advantage, Jain said.
Yet, even IBM isn't blind to the potential for SAAS gobbling up some of its on-premises market share, which is why IBM bought WebDialogs last year to add a SAAS distribution option to Lotus Sametime. IBM formally released this iteration, Lotus Sametime Unyte, Dec. 9.