Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Meet The Company That WebEx Hates


Every industry goliath has a "David" that serves as a perpetual thorn in it's side. Microsoft, for example, has Apple, who it both loathes and studies at the same time. Google has Yahoo (and ironically, Microsoft) in their rear view mirror. WebEx is no different, as they have a "David" sized competitor that is constantly shaking their virtual tree. This competitor is VIA3, from VIACK, a resilient silicon valley firm who's headquarters are just down the road from WebEx.

VIA3 was one of the very first Web Conferencing solutions to build in 128-bit AES level security from the ground up, which forced many of the larger players like WebEx to adopt similar levels of security at great expense. They are also pushing the boundaries of free trial time, purposely doubling the WebEx 15 day window to offer a 30 day free trial of their software. The feature race in general is pushing the limits of both company's development staff. WebEx had been trying to develop a corporate instant messaging system with presence detection to match the VIA3 product offering. Those plans were recently scrapped in favor of using a custom Jabber client instead, a fact which no doubt amuses and delights the VIA3 crowd. WebEx is also still charging for some workspace functionality in their offering list, while VIA3 throws it in for free. WebEx is still charging large amounts for conference bridges, and VIA3 has a free conference call option. WebEx is still charging extra for audio (using VOIP) and - you guessed it - VIA3 throws that in for free. So far in 2009, at least one WebEx employee has defected down the road to Viack, who hopes that many more will follow.

To make matters worse, Viack also recently dropped the price VIA3 to $23.75, which is more than half the price of WebEx. WebEx also had to recently add a month-to-month subscription option in response VIA3's similar offering, and in response to consumer backlash against the restrictive WebEx contracts. One of the biggest slaps to the face came with the release of the 2009 Top Ten Vendor Recommendations from the Web Conferencing Council (www.webconferencingcouncil.com). Perennial winner WebEx lost to (and again you know where this is going) VIA3, a point which didn't escape the industry juggernaut's attention.

Russell Carter, a Colorado businessman with teleworkers in multiple states, evaluated both WebEx and VIA3, and ended up choosing VIA3 for its affordability, and depth of business collaboration and web conferencing features. "In the end, we simply couldn't justify the expense of WebEx, especially when compared to VIA3. We are a small business who watches the bottom line just like everyone else." Russell estimates that his business saves 75% with VIA3 over the estimates given to him from WebEx, and has overall seen over $100,000 dollars of travel and telephony costs reduced to nearly nothing.

Neil Woodruff, Viack CEO, welcomes the friendly rivalry with WebEx. "VIA3 gives users the best audio, video, and application sharing experience for presentations, meetings, demos, collaboration, or training. We're so confident in our solution that we actually encourage our potential customers to try WebEx first. That way, when they come back and purchase VIA3, they're an even more satisfied customer than they would have been."

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