Chris Kranky

Recent Posts

Free web conferencing

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

In 1996, Webex was founded offering web conferencing services.  Webex had an immense challenge, they not only had to develop the software, they also had to educate the market on what exactly web conferencing was. Educating a market takes tremendous marketing dollars and Webex’s $49.95 a month plan was quite profitable and the business case was a simple – save as little as one business trip a year and you’ve paid for the service. If you know what web conferencing is (duh), you can thank Webex for educating you.

The #2 player, Go2Meeting, entered the market and like all number two players, they didn’t do much innovation, nor did they do anything to disrupt the pricing. The market was huge and with a bit of advertising and sales push, plenty of room for both of them charging a princely $49.95 per month.

Microsoft with Sharepoint shows up in their well worn marketing model of being a day late and dollar short and haplessly tries to convince enterprises to save the $49.95 a month by installing one of the world’s most complicated pieces of software to enable web collaboration which is supposed to be a whole lot better than mere web conferencing (sic). Along with Microsoft, a slew of other web conferencing providers have shown up, DimDim amongst them, basically offering poor 2nd choices for web conferencing. Not a really good business model.

As I’ve written, in an existing market, you’ve either got to be measurably better or measurably cheaper, in order to gain share. Not marginally better or marginally cheaper. It’s got to be a no-brainer.

Enter the folks from Logmein, the guys who offer a remote PC control service. Established public company, they know marketing. They needed to expand and since web conferencing looks a lot like remote PC control, why not. So they created as a new web conferencing service. Using newer Flash technology, a very streamlined and slick host interface and the participant doesn’t have to download a thing. The service works quite well and was also quite fast, handling both simple two-party as well as multi-party conferencing. As well, they have an optional audio conferencing service.

But wait — that’s not all.

Obviously the marketing minds at Logmein scratched their heads and asked how there were going to make a dent in the crowded and established web conferencing space. Sure the software is slick, but I’m pressed to say it’s measurably better. So true to form, they decided to focus on measurably cheaper. Cheap in like FREE. Yup $0 a month. Similar to Logmein’s PC control service, they appear likely to offer decent web conferencing for free while enticing those free users to upgrade to more advanced features (as yet undisclosed).

If you have 10 employees using Webex, you’re paying close to $6,000 a year for web conferencing. That sure sounds like a big number and a potential for big cost savings. $6000 is a lot of money considering it’s only serving 10 employees!

Clearly FREE doesn’t allow for much by way of marketing expenditure. But FREE tends to work well for ‘word of mouth’ (see I’m telling you about it). We all like to get something for nothing and particularly something that we’re paying for.  The challenge for Logmein will be to get some likely single digit % of the FREE base to convert to the paid service and that remains to be seen how they’ll pull it off and with what.

No matter, works well today and if you’re paying for web conferencing, here’s a great reason to switch and save money.