Last week Carrier VoIP powerhouse Nortel CVAS (Carrier VoIP and Application Solutions) announced it would be beefing up its Hosted IP Communications solution with the addition of a new business collaboration tool.
End users who opt to make use of the new capability will be able to shift on the fly from conference calls to rich-media Web collaboration. Nortel calls it not just a powerful productivity tool for end users but also an opportunity for service providers to generate incremental revenues.
"As the world moves to IP, as more and more people go to teleworking, it just makes sense to add that collaboration ability on top the of the communications we are already having," said Sita Lowman, Nortel CVAS marketing leader.
The collaboration product is due to become available in the second half of the year.
An $800 million division of Nortel, CVAS says it has shipped more than 123 million carrier VoIP and multimedia ports, including over 11 million SIP lines to leading wireline and wireless carriers globally.
Its partner in the web collaboration project, Lowell, Mass.-Based Dimdim, took its product to market two years ago and has since landed a number of high-profile clients including Novell, Intuit, Google, Dell, and Amazon.com. The company is not shy about confronting the competition, claiming to be "both easier to use and much less expensive" than either WebEx or GoToMeeting.
Dimdim provides desktop sharing, document sharing, video broadcasting, multi-way VoIP audio conferencing, instant messaging, and shared whiteboards with annotation tools. Its free for small meetings, while a $25-per-month "pro" version can scale up to 50 participants. Dimdim Webinar can support up to 1,000 people for $75 a month. Dimdim runs on most popular operating systems including Mac, Windows, and Linux.
The company claims 5 million active users and 1 million minutes of meetings daily.
Lowman said CVAS was attracted to Dimdim in part because of the softwares simple implementation. Unlike similar IP-based video conferencing and document sharing applications, Dimdim doesnt ask users to download a software client. Just drop a "meeting room" URL into a browser to join the meeting. "Now any browser will allow you to do this. There is nothing to install from the user perspective," Lowman said.
CVAS also was attracted to Dimdims broad functionality, Lowman said. The company liked Dimdims ability to transition a user from call to conference easily and quickly. The capacity to annotate documents collaboratively also won a nod, along with Dimdims ability to accommodate multiple presenters or leaders. "We looked at a number of different third-party providers and we felt they had the most feature-rich set of capabilities," Lowman said.
Integration of a collaborative tool comes in response to growing carrier requests, Lowman said.
Dimdim Chief Marketing Officer Steve Chazin suggested demand for collaboration tools is rising largely because of the user experience with social media. Look at it this way: Twitter delivers real-time contact regardless of location, but its abbreviated, text-only format is rather limited. Dimdim delivers that same sense of immediacy, but with far richer content.
"Social media teaches us to want to know what people are thinking and where they are. When theyre out of touch, its painful," Chazin said. "Now people want those same capabilities in their enterprise activities. Its about peoples need to stay in touch."
CVAS envisions a number of scenarios in which collaboration could become a valuable tool.
"Certainly large enterprises are going to be very interested in this, just because of the team nature of what they do," she said. "Beyond just text and IM, you want your team to be able to collaborate together in a session in real time."
Small and mid-size business could benefit, too, from the softwares ability to connect participants across distances. "Anytime you get one or two additional sites, that is when you really start to see the value," she said.
As the new offering rolls out, carriers will have the choice of either integrating Dimdims capabilities into their existing offerings, or breaking out the collaboration tools as an add-on product. CVAS declined to provide pricing details.