Intranets.com Brings Web-based Conferencing to SMBs

By Kevin Newcomb | Posted February 23, 2004

Online collaboration services provider Intranets.com today unveiled its integrated Web and audio conferencing service. The offering will be part of the company's Web-based collaboration platform and will be priced for and squarely aimed at small- and mid-sized businesses.

"Our stock in trade is to take technology, with all of the powerful features people are looking for, and make it very accessible, both easy to use and accessible from a price point, to a small and medium-sized business audience," Karen Leavitt, Intranets.com vice president of marketing, said. "We are always thinking in the context of a small and medium-sized business audience, and their needs are really different from that of the enterprise. They don't have an IT guy or a telecom guy hanging around to help them if they get lost in using some of these services."

Intranets.com goal is to offer the SMB market Web-based conferencing that to date has been available from WebEx and Microsoft (which purchased Web conferencing service provider Placeware and rolled it into its Live Communications Server platform) and others who focus on the large-enterprise market. The belief that a service provider must target enterprises, because they think that's where the money is, is not entirely accurate, according to Leavitt.

"On an aggregate basis, small businesses account for the bulk of the American workforce. That's the audience we have chosen to go after. These are people who have different needs than the enterprise market," she said.

With Intranets.com Conferencing, SMBs can share applications, files, or their computer's entire desktop with meeting participants in real-time. It includes meeting and presentation tools such as slide annotation, live chat, polling, and Q&A features. With its integrated audio conferencing, customers can manage conference call features directly from a Web-based control panel.

"Many low-end products have really just been slide-sharing — you can upload slides and present them to people, but that's as far as they go. By offering these high-end features where you can share the entire desktop, we're really competing with enterprise-quality software, but at an SMB price point," Leavitt said.

The company touts the Intranets.com Conferencing product as having a feature set comparable to that of enterprise-level services WebEx or Microsoft Live Meeting, but at a fraction of the price and with improved ease of use. Another contrast with the enterprise providers is the level of integration within the product — including audio conferencing integrated with the Web conferencing, and Web and audio conferencing that is integrated into the intranet suite.

"The product is full-featured Web conferencing. The audio conferencing is integrated into it, so that while you're in a Web conference call, you can be muting lines and checking the status of participants on the audio call at the same time that they're participating in the Web conference," Leavitt said. "The service is integrated into the Intranets.com service, so that it's accessible from one button within the Intranets site, which the users are already familiar with. And the pricing is put at a point that's accessible to the small business market and won't burn a hole in their budget."

Licensing is based on concurrent attendees, with no named user licenses, which allows any member of the intranet to organize a conference. For $99.95 a month on top of the regular Intranets.com service pricing, at any given time, an organization can have 25 simultaneous attendees engaged in web conferences. They can have five members of their team conducting five conferences with five people each, one conference with 25 people, or three conferences with 10, 10 and five attendees.

While the vast majority of Intranets.com's Web-native technology is developed in-house, Intranets.com partnered with Netspoke, a provider of Web and audio conferencing services, to deliver the Intranets.com Conferencing service.

"It was very important to us to get best-in-class functionality as well as integrated audio, so we wanted to make sure we were working with a partner who had their own telephone switches," Leavitt said.

With this latest addition, Intranets.com's collaboration suite now includes six main applications -- Web and Audio Conferencing, Document Manager, Online Calendar, Database Manager, Task Manager and Discussion Forums. A group scheduling feature is expected to be released within the next month.

Adapted from ASPnews, part of internet.com's xSP Channel.

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