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Five Web Conferencing Packages

All of this adds up to a missed opportunity for vendors who, until recently, paid lip service to the small-biz market, yet trotted out technology--and price tags--where the only new feature was the marketing pitch. A few years ago, this was probably a reasonable approach: Many smaller firms didn't see the benefits of using such tools, and most lacked the desktop hardware and the Internet bandwidth to use them effectively, anyway.

Today, that's changing faster than you can buy a $10 hot dog at O'Hare Airport. Smaller firms, like their larger counterparts, are searching aggressively for ways to make the most of tight travel budgets, to extend their marketing reach and to turn their information assets into competitive advantages. As a result, they're increasingly ready, willing and able to take advantage of Web meeting products, given the right set of features and realistic price/licensing models.

Making a Choice

The five Web conferencing products you'll read about here represent the market as a whole pretty well. Some products here are the result of corporate acquisitions, while others originated with the companies selling them today. It includes a relatively young startup (Convoq), a vertical-market success testing the mainstream waters (Elluminate), an established tech-industry player looking for new growth opportunities (Citrix) and the Web conferencing market's most dominant brand (WebEx).

And of course, it includes Microsoft: A company whose presence in any market ensures higher stakes, longer odds, shorter development cycles--and very little room for error.

Each of the five products in this roundup--Citrix GoToMeeting, Convoq ASAP Pro, Elluminate Live, Microsoft LiveMeeting and WebEx MeetMeNow--offer different, if overlapping, features, along with varying strengths and weaknesses. If you want a bargain-priced product with built-in videoconferencing, for example, give Convoq ASAP and Elluminate Live a closer look; if you prefer a product that focuses on a high-quality desktop- and application-sharing tool and you don't care about integrated audio/video, Citrix GoToMeeting is a good first choice. Ultimately, deciding what you want your Web conferencing product to do will go a long way toward deciding which products deserve a more thorough tire-kicking.

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