My Industry News page is getting a workout this week and it’s only Tuesday! Here are some of the press releases that caught my eye:
omNovia says they are offering their web conferencing platform for use as a “white label” reseller product. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means that another vendor can rebrand it as their own software and call it by another name. The underlying technology remains with the original manufacturer, who gets a cut off licensing fees collected by the reseller.
On a related note, Onstream Media says that ACT Conferencing will resell Onstream’s webcasting technology and services. This is a little different than the omNovia news, as the relationship keeps the Onstream Media brand prominent. ACT simply acts as another sales channel. Many companies work under this type of arrangement in the web conferencing arena. Some of the big conferencing service providers carry as many as five or six different competing webinar/webcast products, and will happily license whichever one seems to best fit the client.
White label relationships are hard to track down. The whole point of the exercise is to give the reseller a product they can call their own (without having to invest in R&D or maintenance work). I can often spot technologies being used under different names just because I work with them so much.
But whether disclosed or discreet, partner sales are growing ever more important to web conferencing software vendors. It is amazingly difficult to capture marketing attention and then to make a compelling case for competitive advantage over other technologies. New buyers often view web collaboration software as a commodity, basing their decision purely on price. That’s a pity, as different products have significant strengths and weaknesses in specific feature implementations and use cases. Unfortunately it can be very hard to understand the impact of the differences until you have used a product in practice and found what matters to you.
Moving on, I see that Cisco is expanding the WebEx brand name to encompass social networking, telepresence, video calling, mobile collaboration, and group calendaring. Hmmm… I seem to recall Microsoft playing with the same idea after they purchased Placeware and turned it into Live Meeting. The web conferencing/webinar applications that gave birth and leading market share to the product eventually became subsumed by the larger concepts of Unified Communications/Collaboration, business applications, and a suite of productivity enhancers. Eventually Placeware/Live Meeting quietly trickled away, replaced by Microsoft Lync, just another piece of Office 365 functionality.
The Cisco marketing alignment is taking the opposite branding approach. It looks like everything will end up falling under the WebEx label. But I can’t help wondering if this will lead to dilution of the WebEx brand as a solution for webinars, web training, and web conferencing.
I got a chuckle out of ON24’s announcement that they plan to provide support for their webcasting and virtual event software on the Microsoft Surface. If you don’t follow techgeek news coverage, you may not have heard about the Surface yet. Yesterday afternoon Microsoft sprang a surprise announcement on the technical media, with no advance hints as to the news. It turned out to be their specs for a new Windows-based tablet computer. ON24 did a nice job of getting on the stick fast and getting a press release out there to benefit from the search term popularity while Microsoft’s announcement was hot. But isn’t the new tablet supposed to run Windows 8? I hope that software currently running on Windows will be able to run on the new device! (That’s a little glib… There are always changes and testing needed to support specialized interfaces and hardware quirks. But I think this is likely to become a necessary support path for any vendor wanting to work with the next version of Windows… Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on touch-based interfacing).
I’ll close with a shout-out to the marketing team at Sonic Foundry. I am absolutely astonished at their machine-like ability to generate customer adoption press releases for Mediasite. I wish I could have pumped out that many customer stories when I was in software product marketing! It helps build public awareness along with perception as a popular and successful product/company. Very impressive.
Don’t forget… You can stay informed of news stories and articles related to webinars and webcasting by subscribing to my Webinar Success news feed. Just sign up on the Industry News page. Subscriptions are automated and single-purpose… You don’t end up on any marketing or promotion list. You just get the news updates.