Oof. One in the gut to the collaboration team at Microsoft. The Motley Fool ran a piece today by Tom Taulli entitled WebEx Making Money on Demand. He says complimentary things about WebEx's recent earnings guidance and investment potential. He also points out their expansion from pure online meeting support to other online collaboration products and services.
Then he mentions the competition between WebEx and Microsoft with its Live Meeting product. He closes with this finish:
No doubt, WebEx needs to take this threat very seriously, despite Microsoft's relative lack of success in new markets or ventures recently. It would appear the company has done its part to acknowledge Microsoft's threat, because WebEx has been aggressively enhancing its products and capturing new customers in the process. For example, WebEx recently launched an instant messaging product for the corporate market. The company formed an alliance with AOL to sell the product to small and mid-size companies.
And as I look at this, I'm compelled to agree that Microsoft was and is right that collaboration is a growing market. Unfortunately, it looks like it bought the wrong companies.
Ouch. I'm not so sure he is seeing the complete competitive picture though. Microsoft has definitely let the ball drop on marketplace positioning of Live Meeting (nee Placeware) versus WebEx. WebEx keeps spending bigger and bigger bucks on sales and marketing of their meeting software, effectively turning "webex" into a generic term for having an online presentation/meeting. Something of a double-edged sword for the boys in the blue and green.
But Microsoft in the meantime is quietly building up a big integrated collaboration offering with its still beta Microsoft Office Live. And this is the thing that will go head to head with WebEx's expansion and growth strategy mentioned in the article. I don't know if Microsoft would simply cede the webinar software field to WebEx (I doubt it) in favor of going for the increasingly hyped online collaboration space. I would imagine at some point they will have to fold in Microsoft Office Live Meeting to Microsoft Office Live (not only do the technologies complement each other, but the naming is too close to survive as separate entities under the corporate umbrella).
For now, WebEx has marketing announcements and partnership press releases in their integrated collaboration world. Microsoft has in-house developed software with an operational beta program. Don't count Bill's Boys out of this game by any means. We haven't yet seen the beginnings of the big showdown... Which should be vicious and enormously entertaining once all the troops are in place from both sides!