Web Conferencing Trends

By Heather Baldwin

Until recently, Web conferencing was largely about pushing PowerPoint slides to meeting attendees and giving the same presentation you would in person but without the costs of travel. Not anymore. According to a new report by Frost & Sullivan, “World Web Conferencing Markets,” the technology has evolved from a PowerPoint pushing device to an integrated business solution that does much more than simply substitute for travel. Now it is a powerful communications tool used in situations where travel might never have been an option.

“Product briefings, interoffice meetings, corporate training, investor relations calls, sales calls and marketing promotions all can benefit from the use of Web conferencing,” says David Alexander, a Frost & Sullivan communications/IT industry analyst. “For many companies these business activities would never have involved travel, but would have been accomplished via other methods, such as audio conferencing or email. What Web conferencing does is provide a valuable component to complete these communications as if all were in the same conference room. This is where we get the idea of the virtual conference room environment.”

Bolstered by a growing awareness of the technology and increased enterprise demand for collaborative communications, the worldwide Web conferencing market saw revenues of $372.2 million in 2002, says Alexander. It’s a trend that feeds on itself: As more people start using Web conferencing technology, the level of experience among end users is improving, leading them to widen their use of the application. Most of that growth is happening in the corporate environment. Small businesses have yet to realize the benefits of instituting Web conferencing in their communications practices, says Alexander. “As the market grows toward saturation,” he says, “the small business sector of the market will be critical to driving vendor growth and to the market reaching its full potential” – a phenomenon he predicts won’t occur until 2009 at the earliest.

In addition to analyzing trends, the report addresses many of the Web conferencing vendors and their unique features, functionality and pricing plans. Among its findings: WebEx Communications holds a 64% share of the market, more than three times more than any other provider. For more information, visit www.frost.com.