IBM Buys Web Conferencing Firm to Bolster Sametime IM
August 27, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Hot on the heels of the launch of the new Notes/Domino 8 groupware and its associated Sametime 8 instant messaging extensions, IBM has reached into its bank account to acquire WebDialogs, a privately held service provider that specializes in Web conferencing services.
WebDialogs was founded in 1998, and is located in the Boston tech corridor in the town of Billerica, Massachusetts. The company’s Unyte+ conferencing software can be used to do Web-based voice conferencing as well as chat; the company also distributes a freebie service called Unyte Lyte for one-to-one conferencing. The latter product can be used in a standalone mode through WebDialogs’ own systems or through the Skype VoIP or Yahoo IM services.
Web conferencing is one of the key elements of the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2) initiative, which IBM initiated in conjunction with the Notes/Domino 8 launch last week. IBM says that WebDialogs is the largest provider of “private label” Web conferencing and it has over 500,000 conferencing end users worldwide; it is a competitor of WebEx, which was acquired by network equipment provider and unified communications wannabee Cisco Systems, which ponied up $3.2 billion in cash in March to buy that Web conferencing giant.
WebDialogs just launched Unyte 8 in June–which is convenient in terms of naming conventions–and IBM says that the product will be rebranded Sametime Unyte 8. Right now, WebDialogs only offers Web conferencing in North America, but IBM says that it will expand into other markets around the globe in 2008. WebDialogs is currently only providing its Web site, its Web conferencing, and telephone support in English, with its meeting software supporting English, French, and German. IBM will, given its international nature, offer many other languages in due course.