Cisco WebEx Gets Cheaper: SMBs Time to Pop Champagne?

Looks like Cisco’s WebEx has been feeling some pressure from other players in the web conferencing market. The company announced that WebEx 8 will offer online meetings for $19 a month, a price point that places the product (don’t you just love alliteration?) in the perfect place for the SMB market.

Historically, WebEx hasn’t been the cheapest option for small businesses looking for a web conferencing solution. Actually, it hasn’t been cheap at all before this. This is understandable, given that the core market for the product is enterprise size companies with enough money to buy a company fleet of Ferraris. Executive performance based rewards aside, the cheapest plan previously supported only 1 host with 25 people per meeting at $50 a month. That’s not much.

With WebEx 8, Cisco is offering the same capabilities as the more expensive plans. However, the number of people per meeting is capped at a lower 8 person limit instead of 25. The lower person limit shouldn’t be too much of a hassle, especially for smaller businesses. Besides, I’m sure everyone knows the inverse law of meeting productivity: the more people in a meeting, the less gets done The service still offers unlimited meetings, desktop sharing, mobile support, recording, and integration into outlook. Collaboration tools like annotation and whiteboards are also included.

The wealth of options from other providers has likely eaten into Cisco’s profits, especially in the small business segment. Just yesterday, I wrote about AnyMeetings (one of the aforementioned other providers) public beta with their innovative product integrating the social web and a browser delivered delivery platform. That’s all for the low, low price of free too. WebEx’s $19 a month package looks like too little, too late in comparison. The companies requiring very little in terms of extras could even get by with Google+’s Hangouts feature, which allows for a completely free and easy web conferencing route while checking out the status updates of your “romantic interested” friend circle.

Cisco has the big name, but it seems a bit behind the times. Their offering is certainly less boring than what all the startups are doing. However, many times employees find themselves saying that boring is good. Go with the devil you know, right?

Cisco is offering a 2 week free trial promotion for people not sure about signing onto the Cisco WebEx web conferencing ship. As part of an informed buying process, I’d suggest you try it out–you can never tell what might be the perfect fit for your unique business needs. Just keep an open mind and explore the multitude of other options out there.

Key Features (cribbed from their website)

  • Starting package includes up to 8 participants. Packages available for up to 500.
  • Unlimited meetings
  • High-quality video conferencing
  • Integrated voice conferencing
  • Toll-free calling and call-back (optional)
  • Meeting recording
  • Meet on your mobile device
  • Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux,Unix, and Solaris
  • Localization for 12 languages
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