IBM's New Web Meeting Tool

The game of Web conferencing may be getting an important new player, as IBM seems to be signaling its intentions to compete more vigorously in that market, even while it moves to sell off its venerable personal computer business.

Last month, the Armonk, NY-based computing giant launched the IBM Lotus Web Conferencing Service, which is basically an upgraded version of its previous Web meeting offering, SameTime, but with one important difference, say analysts. The new version is based on a hosted application service provider (ASP) model, meaning IBM's new service can be used for both internal and external meetings, unlike the original version of SameTime, which was built for internal use only.

The change could place the IBM service in head-to-head competition with Microsoft Live Meeting, the second-biggest Web conferencing provider (leader WebEx has about two-thirds of the market, and is thought to be impervious to the new entrant). But Microsoft needn't fear for its market shares just yet, says Paul Ritter, research director at Wainhouse Research in Brookline, MA. "[The new service] doesn't necessarily give IBM a strong leg up in the market," he says. "It just brings it into the market."