David Chao Jr. is a regional sales manager for WebEx. I've never met the guy, but I enjoy reading his blog. He is biased towards his own company and products, as any good sales person should be, but that doesn't diminish the value of a wide variety of comments and opinions about news and developments affecting WebEx and its competitors. Please note that while the titles and layout/colors of our blogs are similar (coincidence?) they have no relationship with one another and I try very hard not to let any economic factors influence my opinions or commentary about vendors.
David's latest entry deals with the recent Adobe Acrobat Connect announcements (an obvious subject for us both, since they've been picking up a lot of press lately). Towards the end of the entry he caught my eye with a reference to a comparison of Macromedia Breeze and WebEx that Macromedia published. The document is copyright 2005 and has the Macromedia branding, so it obviously came out before the Adobe acquisition. But David says it is still being used in competitive sales situations.
David took issue with many of the feature comparisons in that table regarding WebEx's capabilities. So he created a rebuttal spreadsheet with his comments about WebEx and Breeze. The link in his entry was broken the last time I checked, so I am hosting a copy for easy access.
If you take the time to read through both documents, you'll come up against a facet of software sales/marketing I warned about back in How To Grill A Web Conferencing Vendor. A bullet list of short feature names can be interpreted and spun as a vendor wishes. It's the reason I hate RFP's made up of long lists of "Do you support this feature?" questions.
Take a look at the very first entry in the Macromedia comparison table. The label is "Universally installed client." Macromedia says WebEx and Live Meeting don't have it because a user has to download and install software on their PC before the session can begin, while Breeze uses Flash, which is usually already installed on most systems. David says that WebEx has a client that has been installed on millions of systems, making it universal. Completely different choices of what the bullet point should refer to. I would say they are both overstating their cases a bit. Yes, you do have to install the client software for WebEx, but Flash is not the client software for Breeze... it is the underlying enabling technology. You still have to load the application layer on top of Flash to use the software. (And Flash is not "universally installed" either!)
There are some points in there where I think David has quite legitimate gripes. For instance, saying that quizzes and surveys are not available in WebEx is silly, as is saying that Breeze lets you have custom URL's while WebEx doesn't. In both systems you may have to buy a specific version of the software to get all the functionality you want in those regards, but each vendor has them available.
Anyway, my point isn't to go through the list item by item. It is to point out that these kinds of summary level comparison charts are tricky at best, and misleading at worst. You should always demand to see the specific implementation of something the vendor points out as a competitive differentiator and then decide whether it is important for your needs and whether it is practical for your use as they have implemented it. The other thing to remember is that vendors upgrade their web conferencing software all the time and that claims made for a past version may easily be outdated.
For the fun of it, I thought I would do some quick searching and try to find other similar comparison charts between web conferencing vendors. Here are a few I was able to turn up. Note that I was not responsible for any of these and make no claims as to their accuracy or currency.
- Alliance for Community Technology (summary only)
- BroadData (Raindance vs. WebEx with more text descriptions)
- CNET Reviews (software versions from 2003-2005)
- CoCreate (video comparison of complex video/graphics sharing)
- eAuditorium (summary only)
- GatherPlace (summary chart)
- Infinite Conferencing (versus WebEx)
- InfoWorld (2005 test results summary with text)
- University of Chicago (checkmark summary only)
- Vyew.com (Y/N summary)
If you need some help on vendor comparison and selection, let me know!