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May 1, 2003

17 Min Read
Collaborative: Channel News

By Khali Henderson

Posted: 5/2003

Raindance Tests Next-Gen Platform

By Khali Henderson

K2,
the code name for Raindance Communications Inc.’s new multimedia platform, is
the same as that given to the second highest peak in the world. While the
company’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, Carolyn Bradfield, says
Raindance engineers won’t confirm the correlation, the endeavor certainly
represents a pinnacle for the company’s technology thus far.

A preview version of the platform
was expected to be available to select enterprises beginning April 1. Their
input will be gathered throughout second quarter and will influence the final
features and functions. Beta testing will begin in third quarter with a
commercial launch planned for later in the year. Bradfield says, like all
Raindance offers, K2 will be made available for sale through its resellers and
agents.

Like scaling K2 the mountain,
creating K2 the platform is an exercise in focus and control over the task at
hand. In announcing the platform’s impending release, Raindance President and
CEO Paul Berberian said in February its mission was to "drive out the
complexity of the entire remote meeting experience" and "give
customers more control over their conferencing environment."

Raindance developed K2 to improve
four key aspects of every remote meeting: planning, accessing, conducting and
managing — areas the company claims define the ideal meeting experience.

"When we looked at our
offering, we felt like we were only dealing with one of the four elements of a
successful meeting — that was the actual meeting itself," says Bradfield.
"So we looked at what could we do to improve or address all of those
areas."

In the "planning" area,
for example, she says adding Microsoft Outlook integration was key to
automatically inviting participants to join meetings. In addition, K2
automatically follows up with participants via e-mail to remind them about the
meeting because, as Bradfield puts it, "a meeting is not successful unless
all the participants are there."

Similarly, in the
"accessing" area, K2 includes one click-through access to the Web
component of the meeting directly from the e-mail invitation. And, Bradfield
says K2 addresses the participation problem yet again by reaching out to
participants via instant message or e-mail to bring them into the call without
the moderator having to disengage from the conference call. Raindance has the
capability to outdial, but is waiting for feedback from its preview users on
including that function, Bradfield says.

In the "conducting" area,
Raindance’s research found Web conferencing technology generally is more
difficult to use than it needs to be. One way K2 simplifies the process is by
allowing users to customize the desktop to display only the features they use.
"That follows along with a lot of software philosophy that is out there
currently in the market," says Bradfield. "For example, if I use
Microsoft Word, it doesn’t display every single thing that Microsoft Word does.
I have to double-click the drop-down menu to get it all. It only displays the
things I most commonly use. That’s the philosophy that we have taken."

In addition, Raindance is trading a
hierarchical approach to meeting management for an egalitarian one. "Our
philosophy is egalitarian, meaning that everybody has a wide variety of controls
in their hands. So, if I want to show a page of my PowerPoint presentation and
you want to show a page of yours, we both have the ability to do that. That’s
very, very different than in the past," says Bradfield, who adds the
moderator always has the option to take control, if necessary.

Other changes are that presentations
reside on the customer’s server — not Raindance’s — and presentations can be
in other software applications, such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

Finally, in the "managing"
area, K2 attempts to return more control to the customer. To that end, the
technology will be available for installation behind the customer’s firewall as
well as in the hosted model the company currently uses.

Bradfield notes the current version
of K2 is meant for a workgroup environment. Presentation and training versions
will be released at a later date. Customers seeking two or more versions would
have a migration path. Similarly, ASP customers will be able to migrate to the
licensed version.

The licensed version also will be
available for sale by the company’s indirect channel, Bradfield says. She adds
pricing and commission schedules for the service and software versions has not
yet been determined.

Telex Enters Teleconferencing
System Business with Channel Strategy

By Khali Henderson


Telex’ Nexus Platinum

In mid-February Telex Communications
Inc. announced a bid to compete against vendors serving the business
conferencing market with the introduction of its Nexus Platinum, a full-featured
system that the maker is positioning as a "an affordable high-feature,
high-quality teleconferencing alternative." The company will be using a
two-pronged channel strategy to distribute the new system.

Suggested retail price is $699.99
for the expandable system, featuring full-duplex communications, multifunction
LCD, 10-number memory, noise-canceling microphones, voice-tracking, digital
signal processing and more. A bundled product that includes two satellite
microphones retails for $799.99. This compares to $1,299 to $1,599 for
equivalent systems (Polycom Soundstation Premier EX and satellite microphones)
from market leader Polycom Worldwide Inc.

While Telex is a newcomer to the
conferencing space, it is not new to many of the technologies, such as
noise-canceling microphones, voice-tracking and digital signal processing,
required to make them work.

Telex, a private company majority
owned by CitiGroup’s Greenwich Street Capital, has designed and manufactured
broadcast control room communications systems for every major broadcast network,
installed cockpit communications systems in thousands of commercial airliners
and manufactured advanced tactical communications systems for the U.S. military.
Research and technology from these endeavors were utilized in the development of
Nexus Platinum.

"Business teleconferencing was
a natural extension of expertise that we have been developing for decades here
at Telex," says Greg Wright, general manager of the Nexus Platinum product
line for Telex, noting that some of the other products the company builds also
interface to telecom networks.

Wright says the company also can
utilize existing channel relationships to distribute its new product since many
of its VARs already sell audio technologies, such as public address systems,
amplifiers, speakers and other gear, required to outfit boardrooms and
conference centers.

Channel partners can sell the Nexus
Platinum direct from Telex or through its major distributors, Ingram Micro Inc.,
CDW Computer Centers Inc. and D&H Distributing. Already, about 100 D&H
resellers are carrying the product, Wright notes in an early March interview.

Resellers are margin-based and can
earn from 20 percent to 40 percent on the system. In addition, Telex provides
Web-based tech support and marketing programs for its resellers. It also offers
a demonstration program wherein a reseller can get a system on approved credit
for use in sales calls. The system can be returned — no questions asked —
before the invoice comes due.

Netspoke Re-emphasizes Agent,
Reseller Programs

By Khali Henderson

Netspoke is redoubling its efforts
to develop channel programs for its proprietary integrated Web and audio
conferencing services.

Scott D’Entremont, president and
CEO, says the company has a strong direct sales force of 32 people, but its
future growth will depend on contributions from growing its indirect channel of
agents and resellers.

The company’s agent program is
targeted to traditional telecom service agents, interconnects and BLECs, which
D’Entremont says are looking for reasons to go back into their embedded base to
sell them more services. The company has 50 independent agents and five master
agents in its program, and is seeking to double that over the next 12 months, he
says.

The private-label program already
includes two companies — one unnamed U.S. provider and Delphi Solutions Corp.,
Canada’s largest independent provider of telecommunications systems and
associated services to businesses. Netspoke has been providing Delphi On Demand,
a reservationless phone conferencing service, to 20,000 Delphi customers across
Canada for more than a year. D’Entremont says Netspoke presently is most
interested in seeking out cobranded resellers of its services.

Netspoke Conferencing includes an
integrated conferencing portal that allows users to plan, execute and evaluate
phone and Web conferences from one central location. Advanced management
features enable complete control over every aspect of the conference. For
example, users can monitor audio conference activity and settings and control
security and participant features from an in-conference interface. Netspoke also
offers instant access to real-time reporting and the ability to track the usage
of individual subscribers.

Retail pricing is per minute, per
participant for both audio and Web conferencing. Subscription pricing for the
Web conferencing is available on a per-seat, per-month basis.

The agent program is margin-based at
between 25 percent and 40 percent. It is supported by two channel managers each
with two support staff. In addition, Netspoke offers training using its own
tools, collateral, sales assistance and marketing help.

Margins on the private-label or
cobranded offer ranges from 35 percent to 50 percent depending on the division
of responsibility as well as the ultimate retail price charged to the end user.
Netspoke provides three ties of customer support — technical, engineering and
customer — to it resellers. In addition, it offers marketing support, including
product and program launch and design.

Citizens Conferencing Launches
New Web Conferencing Service

Citizens Conferencing has launched
WebXchange, a proprietary Web conferencing tool for sale by agents.

WebXchange offers application
sharing, presentations and a whiteboard application. The service is accessible
to anyone with a PC and an Internet connection. WebXchange is available on a
per-minute basis or as a seat license. For a one-time fee, sites also can be
specifically branded.

"The power of collaboration
will allow companies from all industries to more effectively react to the
increasingly competitive business environment," says Cheryl George,
director of sales and marketing for Citizens.

WebXchange is an addition to the
company’s Web conferencing product line, which includes Web View, a data
collaboration tool, and VoiceCast, a Web streaming service. "As Web
conferencing continues to grow, we are positioned to offer our customers the
most robust line of services available. This coupled with our top-of-the-line
customer service, we are ready for the future of conferencing," says
George.

Accutel Rolls Out Agents-only
Subsidiary

By Khali Henderson

Chicago-based
Accutel, a conferencing service provider, launched in late March a subsidiary,
RTC Real Time Conferencing, that will distribute services exclusively through
agents.

Accutel has developed a national
presence over the past five years. The decision to start an
"agents-only" program under a separate brand and entity was to ensure
a clear separation between the sales channels, says Jim Nicolaou, vice president
of sales for RTC.

"This is their own brand. We
felt that this would help differentiate us," he says.

While Nicolaou says his team will
leverage Accutel’s name and brand to recruit agents, it won’t be a focal point
of agents’ sales to end users except to reinforce the stability of RTC’s
underlying services provider. RTC has a dedicated agent support team backed by
the resources of its parent company staff and systems.

Peter Van, director of agent sales
for RTC, says the startup is working to establish relationships with master
agents, independent agents, distributors, long-distance carriers and
interconnect dealers as agents of conferencing services. RTC offers automated,
operator-assisted and event-based audio conferencing as well as collaborative
and presentation-based Web conferencing. Additional services include digital
playback, IP streaming, transcription and Web moderation.

The services are priced on a
per-minute basis with no minimums or contracts required. Discounts are available
for bundled audio and Web conferencing service. Commissions are paid monthly
with an additional "new business" bonus paid quarterly.

RTC offers a lead-generation program
to distribute sales leads generated by the company’s inside sales group outbound
telemarketing efforts. In addition, RTC offers Web-based training certification
programs for its products as well as dedicated sales support; free
agent/customer demos, sales presentation kits; advertising and other marketing
support.

WebConference.com Adds Microsoft
Productivity Tools

By Tara Seals

WebConference.com has incorporated
Microsoft PowerPoint and Outlook integration into its Web conferencing solutions
for small and medium-sized enterprises, which are available through resellers
and direct channels.

The Los Angeles-based firm’s
WebConference Suite includes teleconferencing, VoIP, text chat, whiteboard, file
transfer and group Web tours.

The PowerPoint Presentation Tool
selects a PowerPoint file and stores it in an online account for real-time
meetings. Each WebConference.com account holds presentations for sharing with up
to 100 participants. The presenter selects the slide to be displayed that is
then shown to guests. The presentations remain available and ready on-demand
after the conference. Audio communication is included with the service using
telephone conferencing, and voice over Internet also is available.

The Outlook WebConference Manager
schedules or starts a meeting from Outlook. Inviting Outlook contacts or adding
new ones is done with a few mouse clicks. Invited guests are sent
password-protected e-mail invitations. The software also automatically
synchronizes the scheduled conferences into Outlook’s calendar with a reminder
notice.

"For people who do many
PowerPoint presentations over the Web and use Outlook to send e-mail and
schedule these conferences, there will be a dramatic savings of time and
energy," explains Frank Morrison, Webconference.com’s CTO.

"Many corporate customers
requested these additional features. With the release of these productivity
tools, we are directly increasing our value to our customers," explains
Morrison.

Israeli Firm Seeks U.S.
Conference Companies to Sell No-strings Presentation Service

By Khali Henderson

In March, startup company Easy
Online Meetings rolled out a service that lets anyone show Microsoft Corp.
PowerPoint presentations while using their existing point-to-point telecom
service or multipoint conferencing bridge equipment or service. In addition to a
planned mass-marketing campaign, the company is seeking distribution
partnerships with companies that already sell teleconferencing services.

The Easy Online Meetings service is
based on proprietary technology developed by the Israeli-based firm, but
requires no software installation and is available to retail customers at www.easyonlinemeetings.com.

"What seemed to be missing in
the market was something very simple," explains Dr. Bruce Krulwich,
cofounder of Easy Online Meetings. "People want to be able to use their own
phone lines. They don’t want to use anything fancy on the Internet or anything
like that. All they want to be able to do is show their PowerPoint presentation
while they are on a phone call. That’s what Easy Online Meetings enables."

Using Easy Online Meetings, anyone
planning a teleconference or phone call can submit their PowerPoint presentation
and invite via e-mail as many participants as they want to view it. During the
call, the presenter controls the PowerPoint presentation, advancing slides,
showing hidden slides and so on. The presenter and the participants need only a
Web browser.

While other teleconference services
require upfront licensing fees of thousands of dollars, or alternatively charge
per-minute and per-viewer fees, Easy Online Meetings charges a flat fee of $20,
which covers an unlimited number of participants and an unlimited length
meeting.

"We are trying to avoid a lot
of the complications a lot of other services have because we want to have
something that the mass market can use," Krulwich says.

While the company is based in
Israel, the service is targeted to U.S. executives and those doing business with
U.S. executives who work abroad, says Krulwich, who used to live in Chicago
before moving to Israel several years ago.

The company is planning to build and
maintain its own brand in order to sell to the executives that are making
point-to-point calls, using three-way calling or using internal company
technology for their teleconferences.

"This is a service that any
executive could decide to use. We don’t need to go through their IT shop. We are
trying to reach out to those people," Krulwich says, noting that the
company is evaluating advertising channels for its mass marketing campaign.

In April, he says, the company plans
to recruit channel partners and is looking at teleconferencing service providers
as a primary avenue. The company initially expects to offer a commission-based
agent program, but is considering a rebranded, margin-based offer as well.

Polycom Unleashes Wave of New
Products, Upgrades

By Tara Seals

Polycom Inc. gave its entire product
line a boost this spring by launching a raft of new products and enhancements in
virtually every aspect of its portfolio, including voice, video, data and Web
conferencing, and collaboration solutions, all available from Polycom’s channel
partners.

New developments include unified
conferencing, an entry-level multipoint control unit (MCU), a midrange video
conferencing system, four new integrated video systems for high-end
environments; a wideband conference phone; an extensive multivendor scheduling
and management solution, and a global enterprise support program for end-to-end
collaboration solutions.

The goal of the new initiatives,
announced in late February, is to bolster collaboration technology adoption.

"Customers demand conferencing
and collaboration solutions that have a significant impact on their critical
business priorities," says Robert Hagerty, Polycom’s chairman and CEO.
"They want solutions that help them reduce product development time cycles,
improve the pace of innovation and enable more effective communication and
collaboration throughout their organization. Those solutions need to be high
quality, simple to use, adaptable to their specific needs, and work well within
their network environment."

In the video arena, Polycom launched
video system and MCU support for H.264, a technology that gives better video
quality over lower bandwidths. Polycom also introduced the ViewStation EX, a
feature-rich midrange video conferencing system. For the high end, the company
took the wraps off the "Executive Collection" — four new integrated
systems available in installed-room and freestanding designs that focus on
performance and aesthetics together.

Other video portfolio advancements
include "People+Content," which enables all conference participants to
simultaneously view both people and high-resolution content, and
conference-on-demand integration. For the desktop video iPower endpoint, Polycom
now offers embedded streaming, conference call recording and a new Bluetooth
wireless tablet.

Meanwhile, Polycom Unified
Conferencing is full-featured, integrated voice and video in the same conference
and on the same platform. One platform for both voice and video conferencing
lowers customers’ cost of ownership by sharing system network and feature
resources. Clients also use the same interactive keypad controls to manage the
voice and video aspects of the conference, and there is only one number to dial.

The unified approach also means one
scheduling and management solution for voice and video conferencing, which
increase productivity and reduces training for network administrators, operators
and end users, says the company.

Polycom also announced the Phase II
launch of its Video MCU, its flagship multipoint, multinetwork conferencing
bridge, now called Polycom VideoPlus. It includes support for the unified
conferencing suite and H.264. It also offers personal layouts and visual effects
providing speaker indications, site names, borders and background colors.
Click&View is another new functionality — video conferencing participants
can use their remote control and a visual interface to change continuous
presence layouts and connect to the operator for assistance. It also has
People+Content support and integrated Web collaboration with Polycom WebOffice.

As far as conference phones, Polycom
announced the SoundStation VTX 1000, a wideband product. It delivers
high-fidelity voice conferencing on normal analog telephone lines.

Polycom also rolled out the
Conference Suite, a multivendor scheduling and management system. The new
product includes scheduling through Microsoft Outlook, network bandwidth
reservation, complete management capability for products from all major
conferencing equipment and MCU providers and control over both the network and
the physical room environment.

Finally, the Enterprise Support
program is a new service package for enterprisewide support for planning,
implementing and maintaining a collaboration environment. The program includes a
full evaluation and optimization of a company’s collaborative environment,
global maintenance and dedicated support from area experts.

LINKS

Accutel www.accutel.com

Citizens Conferencing www.citizensconferencing.com

Delphi Solutions Corp. www.delphisolutions.com

Easy Online Meetings www.easyonlinemeetings.com

Microsoft Corp. www.microsoft.com

Netspoke www.netspoke.com

Polycom Inc. www.polycom.com

RTC Real Time Conferencing www.rtconferencing.com

SMART Technologies Inc. www.smarttech.com

The Yankee Group www.yankeegroup.com

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