Web Conferencing’s Third Wave

By Heather Baldwin

Since its infancy in the mid-1990s, web conferencing has undergone a shift from client-server technology to an application-service-provider (ASP) model. Now, one company is pushing what it calls the “third wave of web conferencing” – client-server-client technology – where a meeting leader pushes content to a server and participants pull it off that server. The technology, says Charles Orlando, director of marketing for Pixion, is ideal for large companies with security and budget concerns. “Why would I want to pay for 200 seats [at an ASP-model web conference] at $200 per seat when I can purchase a server and do everything myself behind my firewall? Renting is good,” says Orlando, “but owning is better.”

According to Orlando, those two advantages – security and cost – are what differentiate Pixion’s PictureTalk from the other big-name web conferencing providers. For instance, what, he asks, could be more secure than hosting a meeting on your own server that resides behind your own firewall? Other vendors “explain that nothing is saved anywhere and nothing resides on a local server, which means there are no security concerns,” Orlando says. “But we say: Without the uploading, where’s the firewall? Where’s the security? During the transfer of information, how am I protected?” With Pixion’s client-server-client technology, he says, there is firewall protection on both the presenter’s and attendees’ sides.

The other advantage to server ownership is cost. Sure, there’s a larger startup fee, says Orlando, but ownership is far more cost-effective in the long run. Why? As ASP solutions, which tend to start out small and affordable, spread through an organization and its partners, suppliers, vendors and customers the costs “dramatically rise and the enterprise pays recurring and often unpredictable monthly fees,” Orlando explains. With client-server-client technology, companies will pay more up front, but costs will decline over time. “While hosted solutions are beneficial to smaller organizations and workgroups, larger corporations need a standards-based, cross-platform solution that enables bandwidth-independent web meetings and internal administration,” says Orlando.

On April 1, Pixion will launch version 3.8 of PictureTalk, adding features such as whiteboarding and teleconferencing as well as “solidifying our technology to make sure we’re the only provider of native cross-platform services,” says Orlando. Down the road, Pixion plans to verticalize its solution, but that likely won’t happen until version 4.0 rolls out later this year.