Cisco Low-Priced WebEx Package Targets Skype

Cisco’s WebEx 8 service offers online meetings for up to eight people and competes more strongly with Skype

Cisco Systems is offering a lower-priced WebEx package designed to attract smaller companies and individuals that might not be using online collaboration tools or may be opting instead to go with Skype.

Cisco officials have announced a package that offers meetings for up to eight people for $19 (£11.50) a month. Until now, the standard package offered up to 25 people in a meeting for $49 (£29.65) a month, according to Deborah Holstein, senior director for online for Cisco’s WebEx business. For businesses that prepay for a year, that number drops to $15 (£9) a month, Holstein said in an interview with eWEEK.

Smaller Meeting Place

The new WebEx 8 offering includes all the features found in other WebEx offerings, including desktop sharing, high-quality video, recording capabilities, integrated Outlook scheduling and compatibility with WebEx Mobile, enabling both hosts and attendees to use the free mobile apps to participate in a meeting.

“It’s just a smaller meeting now at a smaller price,” Holstein said. “The feedback we’ve gotten is that not everyone needed such a large package… [But] the need for meetings is not going away.”

Surveys done by Cisco have found that respondents spent 50 percent of their time in meetings, and that 90 percent said meetings were still important parts of the business environment, she said. The goal is to expand the user based for WebEx to include smaller businesses and individuals that might have needed a WebEx package for 25 people, according to Jennifer Carole, a social media team member for the WebEx business.

“While executives are clear they need a powerful communication’s arsenal… smaller businesses and individuals aren’t yet reaping the rewards,” Carole wrote in a post on Cisco’s Collaboration blog. “WebEx wants to make video conferencing accessible to everyone in any sized company.”

More Corporate Than Skype

For many of those businesses and individuals – including freelancers and mobile workers – the primary alternative to WebEx was Skype, according to Holstein. Skype’s free service was primarily directed at consumers, though in recent years the company had been making moves to add more commercial features. Still, Skype does not offer the scope of corporate capabilities that WebEx does, Holstein said.

Skype currently is in the process of being bought by Microsoft for $8.5 billion (£5.1bn). That deal has yet to close.

The new WebEx 8 package makes online collaboration “more accessible to folks who want a smaller meeting”, Holstein said, adding that it fills the gap between the one-to-one meetings on Skype and the larger and more expensive meetings via Cisco’s standard WebEx offering.

The various tools available on WebEx “make it really easy to participate”, she said. For example, the desktop sharing feature enables meeting attendees to share everything from a file to a computer desktop with other attendees, while users also can schedule their WebEx meetings through Outlook, giving them easy access to email and the team’s calendar.