Web conferencing is a foundational capability for accelerated decision making and a strategic requirement for real-time collaboration and communications in the digital workplace. This Magic Quadrant assesses 13 significant vendors to help enterprise buyers select the right solution for their needs.
Web-conferencing products are real-time collaboration tools that support interactions over a network between participants in multiple meeting formats. Types of meetings and communications that fall into the category of Web conferencing include collaborative meetings, learning and training, and webinars. Some vendors segment their product lines to target and scale to each of those use cases, while others offer a broad solution that can be fitted to each purpose. A separate telephone bridge is sometimes used for the audio portion, with a callback feature desirable, but voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the browser or client is often available and simple to use. Video between desktops, smartphones or tablets is essential to meetings. Vendor offerings are increasingly enabling users not only to participate in, but also to host meetings from mobile devices with video. For VoIP and video support, accessories such as headsets and webcams should be included in the purchasing decision, because wise investments here will improve the quality of the user experience and foster adoption. Company laptop PCs and mobile devices with built-in video cameras are common.
The Web-conferencing market consists of offerings that are predominantly cloud-based, although buyers still need hybrid, on-premises, managed and dedicated deployment options. Web conferencing is still a stand-alone market, but is more frequently becoming a key requirement in purchasing decisions for unified communications and collaboration (UCC). Capabilities span a range from low-end freemium to high-end premium services. Historically, enterprise buyers have been from lines of business (LOBs) where support for specific use cases (such as training, and sales and marketing webinars) is needed. Strategic decisions involve enterprise IT around broader UCC initiatives.
Web conferencing benefits businesses in various ways. It can help to reduce geographic barriers for teams that need to work on projects or specific business processes. Training can be rolled out virtually, to employees in multiple locations. There are potential productivity increases and cost reductions from reducing business travel. Because of worldwide economic trends, Web conferencing has become not only a way to cut expenses, but also the preferred method of communication (ahead of travel) in many organizations. Organizations often make conscious decisions that separate Web conferencing for internal use — for collaboration and learning — from external use for marketing, and will run products from more than one vendor. With Web-conferencing tools, enterprises can also benefit from engaging with external constituents, such as business partners and customers, to continually build those relationships.
Source: Gartner (December 2014)
Adobe Connect (www.adobe.com) is offered as SaaS, hybrid, on-premises or managed service deployments.
- Adobe offers a portfolio of solutions that accommodates key use cases, from collaboration to training and webinars, along with a sophisticated set of prebuilt integration pods and APIs for customization.
- Features such as breakout rooms and an engagement dashboard (leveraging Adobe's analytics platform) speak to its suitability for training, and its hybrid and on-premises deployment options appeal to government customers wishing to control services themselves.
- Presenters hosting meetings from devices will find that the Adobe Connect mobile apps have controls that are nearly equal to the desktop applications.
- Adobe's focus on its Creative Cloud and Marketing Cloud portfolios results in less visible emphasis on horizontal offerings such as Adobe Connect — which integrates with other products such as Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Analytics and Adobe EchoSign.
- Adobe Connect on the desktop relies on Flash Player — distributed with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 and with Windows 8, but also a necessary download for other browsers and operating systems (OSs) — in order to function.
- Adobe Connect may be preferable for specific advanced use cases, rather than general basic collaboration, as suggested by its reference customers.
ArkadinAnywhere (www.arkadin.com) is offered as SaaS.
- ArkadinAnywhere runs directly in the browser with no necessary downloads or plug-ins.
- Arkadin offers live chat, phone and in-meeting support by local personnel in 32 countries and 18 languages, which may be advantageous for global enterprises.
- ArkadinAnywhere is easy to use and low-cost, as reported by references.
- Arkadin was acquired by global network service provider NTT Communications during 2014. This extends its footprint beyond Europe and North America, Arkadin's main markets, and justifies its re-examination by buyers looking for a global offering.
- ArkadinAnywhere lacks advanced features such as HD video and HD audio, and its APIs for integration are limited to provisioning and call control. Buyers with those requirements will have to review other vendors' Web-conferencing products that Arkadin resells as a channel partner (Adobe and Cisco, for example).
- Administration of the ArkadinAnywhere service needs improvement in areas such as upgrade process and notifications, and tools to delegate administration and account provisioning to local internal support; all issues cited by reference customers that Arkadin proposes to address in new end-user and administrator portals by the end of 2014.
AT&T Connect (www.att.com) is offered as a SaaS, hybrid, on-premises or managed service.
- AT&T has a flexible deployment model that allows blending of premises-based cloud services, enabling consolidation of load at high-volume sites and failover to cloud for usage spikes.
- AT&T's Hybrid Virtual Desktop will appeal to enterprises that must deliver Web conferences over virtual desktop infrastructure.
- AT&T's understanding of business needs and strong management of account relationships are key reasons why its reference customers select its products.
- AT&T Connect does not offer HD video or HD audio.
- AT&T's range of pricing options, from per-minute usage with no commitment to per-host flat rate monthly subscriptions, may require close management for cost-efficiency.
- AT&T's user interface, product customization, accounting and reporting features are limited and need improvement, according to customer references.
Blackboard Collaborate (www.blackboard.com) is offered as SaaS.
- Blackboard accommodates key use cases, from collaboration to training and webinars with up to 1,000 participants.
- Blackboard Collaborate includes a rich set of accessibility features, including multiple streams of closed captioning, enlarged video, scaling of content area, an activity window for screen readers, auditory event notification, keyboard navigation and accelerator keys for menus, navigation and common functions.
- References indicated that Blackboard's understanding of the needs of users in education and training, including integration with learning management systems and ease of use, were key influences in their product selection.
- Blackboard's focus on learning use cases may make it less tenable for enterprise collaboration, which requires features such as Outlook integration, feature parity for presenter controls between desktop and mobile clients, or browser-only options for meeting guests.
- Blackboard's products and licensing are in transition, which may call for some buyers to migrate from Wimba Classroom and Elluminate Live products to Collaborate (now cloud-only with no on-premises option), or from legacy per-user licensing to cloud subscription based on organization size.
- Client setup and resolving issues with Java can be more time-consuming than expected, according to Blackboard's reference customers. Blackboard proposes to integrate a browser-only experience, enabled by its 2014 acquisition of Requestec.
Cisco WebEx Enterprise Edition (www.cisco.com), which includes Meeting Center, Training Center, Event Center and Support Center, is offered as SaaS.
- WebEx includes a portfolio of solutions that accommodates key use cases, together with a rich set of enterprise communications and conferencing service integrations.
- Mature global infrastructure has contributed to driving high-volume usage of the WebEx platform among organizations with varying technology adoption profiles — from conservative to mainstream to aggressive.
- WebEx integrates with enterprise telecommunications, telepresence and group video systems through Cisco Collaboration Meeting Rooms, which, together with ease of use, are the key reasons why reference customers select WebEx.
- Cisco is in the process of transitioning its video and Web-conferencing business units into one that is aligned to develop and support converged conferencing products. This will force IT planners to re-examine whether Cisco's integration will be sufficient for their needs, or if third-party integrators are a better fit for price and functionality.
- Voice can be handled in a variety of ways — including VoIP in the browser, WebEx Cloud Connected Audio, and third-party conferencing providers — and selecting the best-fit option for price and functionality is complex.
- WebEx customers have cited support, licensing models and leveraging resellers effectively as challenges for Cisco.
Citrix (www.citrix.com) GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar and GoToAssist are offered as SaaS.
- Citrix offers a portfolio of solutions that accommodates key use cases, from collaboration to training and webinars, along with strong integration with CRM and APIs for customization.
- Citrix's GoToMeeting offering has kept pace with enterprise collaboration needs such as Outlook integration, feature parity for presenter controls between desktop and mobile clients, HD video, and support for compliance.
- GoToMeeting is easy to use, a key influencing factor in product selection according to its references.
- Attendees using GoToMeeting Web Viewer should be aware that it requires Flash Player (distributed with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8, but also a necessary download for other browsers and OSs) and will not be able to share video unless they install the full desktop application. A browser-only experience, no plug-in and zero download, is currently achieved in GoToMeeting Free.
- The Citrix offering is a cloud-only deployment, and the vendor reports that a cloud-based recording service is on its road map. Currently, however, all recording of meetings, training sessions and webinars can be captured only with the rich desktop client.
- GoToMeeting reference customers expressed concern over sporadic issues with stability and an impression that capacity issues are handled reactively. Citrix reports that it has transitioned to a dynamic capacity model during 2014, to improve performance and scalability.
Fuze (www.fuze.com) is offered as SaaS.
- Fuze has a simple, cost-effective subscription pricing model for meeting hosts and rooms.
- Fuze has kept pace with enterprise collaboration needs such as Outlook integration, feature parity for presenter controls between desktop and mobile clients, HD video and voice, and support for compliance.
- Reference customers for Fuze emphasize ease of use, integration with videoconferencing, high-quality voice, federated single sign-on, and continuous engagement and support from the vendor as sources of satisfaction.
- Fuze may be dismissed due to its initial focus on Europe and North America (its main markets), but recent partnership with BT justifies re-examination of its services and costs for buyers in global organizations.
- The Fuze client is not as feature-rich, nor does the platform have as many mature integrations and APIs, as its competitors.
- Areas for improvement include a fully functional browser-only client and an increase in the current meeting attendee limit of 250, both concerns raised by Fuze's reference customers.
Google Hangouts (www.google.com/work/apps/business/products/hangouts/) is offered as SaaS.
- The bundling of Hangouts and its tight integration with other collaboration tools within the Google Apps for Work suite is compelling in functionality and pricing for those organizations already invested in Google.
- Chromebox for Meetings (introduced in February 2014) leverages the Hangouts software and infrastructure, can be managed as part of a Google Apps domain and is an accessible entry point for Google customers who want to extend collaboration into meeting rooms.
- References emphasize the ease of use and cost-effectiveness of Hangouts.
- While the current limit of 15 video endpoints may meet users' needs for internal collaboration, enterprises may not find Hangouts tenable for larger internal learning and training sessions or confidential large-scale internal meetings such as town halls.
- Guests joining a Web-conferencing session are required to authenticate via a Google Apps customer account or Gmail account.
- Enterprises that require private or internal meeting recording (as essential to their business processes or for compliance) will need to investigate third-party desktop capture, because Google's option, Hangouts On Air, publishes recordings publicly on its YouTube platform and restricting privacy to a domain is possible only after the fact.
IBM (www.ibm.com) offers Sametime Conference in on-premises or managed service deployments, and IBM Connections Meetings Cloud as SaaS.
- IBM Sametime Conference and IBM Connections Meetings Cloud are offerings suitable for key use cases, from collaboration to training and webinars, with mobile meetings that are close in parity to the desktop experience.
- IBM's solutions are well-suited to global enterprises due to the rich ecosystem of sales, technical and implementation partners.
- Sametime's strong integration with other collaboration tools and IBM cloud services, and IBM's strength in managing account relationships, are key influencers in the choices of its reference customers.
- The transition of the branding of IBM's collaboration portfolio (from IBM SmartCloud for Social Business to IBM Connections Meetings Cloud), as well as the options to buy Meetings Cloud unbundled or to license and run Sametime on-premises, calls for potential buyers to seek clarity on the exact fit for their needs.
- Video support is available only in Sametime, not in the Meetings Cloud offering, although IBM reports that video is in its product road map.
- References express concern that the service architecture is complex and would benefit from simplification. They have also experienced issues with client software, plug-ins and the requirement for Java, which IBM proposes to remove from the browser experience by the end of 2014.
Unified Meeting (www.intercall.com) is offered as SaaS, hybrid or a managed service.
- InterCall has a rich partner ecosystem that allows extension of its platforms via federation, unified communications, collaboration and integration providers.
- Unified Meeting leverages many of InterCall's significant audioconferencing features, notably hybrid audio over the public switched telephone network or VoIP, tunneled VoIP, detailed accounting and billing, and project codes.
- Unified Meeting has attractive pricing and total cost of ownership as well as strong integration with audioconferencing — according to its references.
- Unified Meeting lacks features such as HD video and integration with room video systems, so buyers with those requirements will have to review other vendors' Web-conferencing products that InterCall resells as a channel partner (Adobe and Cisco, for example).
- InterCall's mobile app, MobileMeet, allows joining only the audio portion of a Web conference; participants cannot see the screen-share or video. However, InterCall's road map proposes to add screen sharing and video during 2015.
- Unified Meeting's user interface, pace of offering new features and the stability of its Outlook plug-in are potential concerns, according to its reference customers, although InterCall has performed significant refreshes in these areas since our survey.
Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) offers Lync Server for hybrid and on-premises deployments, and Lync Online as SaaS.
- Lync Online's tight integration as part of the Microsoft Office 365 suite is compelling in functionality and pricing for those organizations looking for an integrated cloud collaboration solution from Microsoft.
- Lync Server and Lync Online features, such as Outlook integration, offer parity for presenter controls between desktop and mobile clients, plus HD video and voice. Rich APIs match the needs of the enterprise.
- Lync integrates with videoconferencing services and is easy to use, which are key reasons for product selection by reference customers.
- There is no integrated cloud or server-based recording, and meetings can be captured only with the rich desktop client; this may be a concern for organizations that require recordings for certain business processes or compliance.
- Lync Online does not support meetings of more than 250 participants, and those customers planning to transition from hosted Live Meeting (which allows 1,250 participants) must plan to wait, and hold to existing contracts and enterprise agreements, until Microsoft provides an alternative option with comparable scalability — Lync Broadcast Meeting, which was publicly announced during 2014.
- End users may find that the video and presenter controls, user interface and video quality in the Lync client need improvement — according to Microsoft's reference customers.
PGi's (www.pgi.com) iMeet and GlobalMeet are SaaS offerings.
- PGi has simple, cost-effective subscription pricing models for all-you-can-meet and per-minute audio, for both simple face-to-face Web video meetings with iMeet (125-attendee limit) and more complex collaborative meetings and webinars with GlobalMeet (325-attendee limit).
- PGi's services leverage its significant audioconferencing capabilities, notably HD audio, dial-out and connect-me functionality, and detailed reporting.
- Both iMeet and GlobalMeet are easy to use and have attractive pricing, and PGi's customer service focus has been a key influencer in its selection by reference customers.
- iMeet and GlobalMeet lack advanced features such as HD video and integration with room video systems, so buyers with those requirements will have to review other vendors' Web-conferencing products that PGi resells as a channel partner (Adobe and Cisco, for example).
- iMeet and GlobalMeet on the desktop rely on Flash Player — distributed in Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 10 and with Windows 8, but also a necessary download for other browsers and OSs — in order to function.
- Feature parity between the desktop and mobile experiences, and a lack of availability in certain geographies are limitations identified by PGi's customer references.
Vidyo (www.vidyo.com) is offered as a SaaS, hybrid, on-premises or managed service.
- Vidyo's solutions are well-suited to scenarios in which video is the main component of the collaboration, and client stability and adaptation to low-bandwidth, high-latency conditions are concerns.
- VidyoDesktop Virtual Edition (VE) is worth examining for those enterprises challenged to deliver Web-conferencing services to a Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure.
- Vidyo's integration with third-party videoconferencing systems — such as its VidyoH20 product that connects Google Hangouts to Polycom, Lifesize and others — and its video quality and delivery optimization capabilities were key reasons for product selection by references.
- VidyoWeb, needed for guests to join via a Web browser, is a necessary plug-in download.
- Vidyo's focus on video collaboration use cases may make it less tenable for learning and training and webinar scenarios, which require features such as polling, Q&A management, engagement indicators and analytics.
- Meeting recording requires VidyoReplay, a hardware appliance. A software approach was expressed as desirable by Vidyo's reference customers.
We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants and MarketScopes as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant or MarketScope may change over time. A vendor's appearance in a Magic Quadrant or MarketScope one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. It may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or of a change of focus by that vendor.
- Arkadin now meets our inclusion criteria and has been added.
- Google now meets our inclusion criteria and has been added.
- Vidyo now meets our inclusion criteria and has been added.
- Dialcom was removed following its acquisition by ClearOne, because it no longer meets the inclusion criteria for revenue.
- Saba was removed because its market focus has narrowed to providing Web conferencing in support of its talent management and HR software.
We applied the following criteria for inclusion in this Magic Quadrant:
- The product must provide at least the following minimal functionality:
- Presentation delivery. All participants can see an online presentation (usually delivered by Microsoft PowerPoint), which is under the control of one participant who is designated the presenter.
- Desktop or application sharing. All participants can see, but not necessarily directly interact with or modify, the presenter's desktop or a specific application on the presenter's system.
- Text chat. Participants can exchange real-time textual messages with other participants or the presenter using an IM-like interface.
- Shared whiteboard. A meeting participant can add annotations — viewable by all — by typing or drawing on a whiteboard application, or on top of a presentation or shared application window.
- Basic security. Encrypted data transfer and password-protected meetings.
- Remote control. Useful for technical support, this gives one participant control of applications or the desktop on another system.
- Integrated VoIP audio. To remove or reduce the need for telephone-based audio, qualifying products must use a speaker and microphone (or a headset) to enable participants to listen and speak.
- Video. Qualifying products must show live video feeds of participants or the presenter from a desktop webcam or mobile device camera.
- Mobility. Qualifying products must have specific support for mobile devices and tablets.
- The product must support at least five participants. Products that support one-to-one interaction or small groups are generally aimed at the consumer market or at other specialized markets not covered by this Magic Quadrant.
- The vendor must have at least $7 million in annual revenue from sales of Web-conferencing products.
- The vendor must provide at least one reference with more than 1,000 seats of internal users.
- Sales and marketing efforts connected with the product must not be limited primarily to a particular vertical or horizontal process (such as training).
- The vendor must develop and market the primary Web-conferencing product, not resell a white-label product produced by another company in an OEM relationship. The product can be the result of an acquisition.
Service providers such as Arkadin, AT&T, InterCall and PGi are included in this Magic Quadrant because they market and develop their own Web-conferencing offerings. They also resell other vendors' products, but those are not considered in this evaluation.
Several factors contribute to the vendors' ratings for Ability to Execute:
- We evaluated the capabilities of the vendors' products separately for basic and advanced functionality.
- Because this market includes many small vendors with uncertain futures, financial viability was an important factor.
- We evaluated pricing in terms of comparative pricing levels and the vendors' flexibility in supporting the kinds of pricing models that customers want (such as concurrent user, named user, per minute and flat rate).
- We judged the customer experience by speaking to Gartner clients that use the products and by surveying users identified as reference customers by the vendors.
Source: Gartner (December 2014)
We evaluated the vendors' Completeness of Vision by examining customers' requirements for usage and purchasing, and by assessing how the products aligned with these requirements:
- To evaluate vendors' marketing and product strategies, we looked at how they position their products and whether their products adequately address the chosen positioning.
- We rated the vendors' flexibility in supporting both SaaS and on-premises deployment models more highly than a strategy of concentrating on a single deployment model.
- We also evaluated vendors' product innovation and ability to address the trends we expect to see in the Web-conferencing market.
Source: Gartner (December 2014)
Vendors in the Leaders quadrant have achieved significant market share, while demonstrating an ability to respond to customers' needs. Leaders have robust, scalable products with a wide range of features, a large installed base, acceptable financial performance and good distribution. Leaders are doing well today and are prepared for the future.
Vendors in the Challengers quadrant are characterized by operational excellence and good standing in the market. Compared with vendors in the Leaders and Visionaries quadrants, either they do not have long-term road maps or their products lack some features.
Visionaries typically have important, unique and/or well-developed technical capabilities and provide key innovations that illustrate the future of the market. However, they have not yet developed the sales and support capabilities to address or influence the whole market.
Niche Players may have good technology, but are limited by their size, breadth of product line, track record in the market, vertical or horizontal focus, geographic niche, and/or financial circumstances. Some have chosen a niche strategy (for example, regional vendors with a local focus or targeted functionality intended to run on top of, or alongside, other technologies).
Web-conferencing services are still purchased mainly by departments and LOBs. IT leaders responsible for collaboration, real-time technology and infrastructure should:
- Assess and inventory existing real-time assets.
- Engage technical architects to map out future architecture with respect to real-time technologies.
- Influence sourcing/procurement officers to ensure that future investments in real time are aligned to, and can be integrated with, the architecture.
More than ever, Web-conferencing decisions need to be made together with other decisions about communications and collaboration infrastructure. Mobility and video support have also emerged as core decision criteria when buyers evaluate Web-conferencing offerings.
Web-conferencing services are deployed via several different delivery models, with SaaS as the most prominent — although there are options for on-premises, hybrid and managed services, and there are buyers for all. The vendors in this market consist of service providers (such as Arkadin, AT&T, InterCall and PGi), UCC vendors (such as Cisco, Google, IBM and Microsoft), collaboration and training vendors (such as Blackboard), best-of-breed Web-conferencing vendors (such as Adobe and Citrix), and vendors that blend video and Web-conferencing capabilities (such as Fuze and Vidyo). Buyers gravitate toward one of these focus areas as they select vendors to investigate.
There are several trends affecting the market, from pricing to pervasive video and mobility support. Smaller and lower-cost vendors continue to disrupt pricing dynamics, resulting in downward-facing pricing pressure that is causing changes in licensing models to justify charging a premium for Web-conferencing services. In addition to vendors offering free trials, many offer freemium models — usually with modest functionality for small meetings. These are intended to hook users and then influence LOBs, or even central IT and procurement, on an upsell to premium services with more enterprise features. Of particular note are two distinctly different approaches to the topic: Adobe discontinued its freemium offering during 2013, and Citrix introduced GoToMeeting Free in 2Q14 following its successful experiment (Hutt) in browser-based video rooms.
Interest in contextual collaboration continues to rise, adding real-time communications capabilities such as Web conferencing into office collaboration, social networking and CRM applications. It is becoming more common to see those capabilities a single click away within a business application, either within the software packages themselves or via integrations and middleware meant to improve responsiveness, time to market or partner collaboration.
The integration of Web-conferencing capabilities with UCC infrastructure gives UCC vendors strong leverage in enterprises. Best-of-breed vendors must ensure integration with UCC offerings to gain further traction into enterprises beyond an individual LOB. Democratization of video by leveraging mobile endpoints — through bring your own device (BYOD) or corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE) programs — is complicated by requirements to support multiple form factors, mobile OSs and browsers. Deployments of inexpensive room video systems backed by Web-conferencing technology seem to be favored above new builds of expensive telepresence.
Large-scale webcasting is the purview of specialist vendors such as ON24 or TalkPoint (acquired by PGi in 3Q14), but at the more modest scale of a few hundred or thousand attendees for a company town hall or quarterly shareholder meeting, it is increasingly common to see high-end Web-conferencing vendors or enterprise video content managers handle the use case for live streaming.
Rich client applications on the desktop and native mobile apps continue to offer the most features and functionality for presenters; however, the common expectation is for a reasonable experience for guests in a browser-only mode with no plug-ins. An emerging area of interest and investment for vendors is HTML5 and its related protocols, such as Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC). The promise of WebRTC is that real-time communication, such as video, can occur in the browser and between browsers. While still early in its development, this has the potential to disrupt current conferencing delivery models — where a majority of offerings require users to download a client. The more recently a vendor has entered the space, the more likely it is to have less legacy code to pull forward and therefore to prefer an approach with WebRTC — although this limits its potential markets as not all browsers support the standard equally. We expect WebRTC to initially affect consumer use of real-time capabilities in browsers, and then to affect the enterprise.
Users have four basic deployment options for Web-conferencing applications:
- SaaS — Web-conferencing software runs on the vendor's (or a partner's) system on a multitenancy basis, and the user accesses the capabilities over the Internet (see Note 1).
- On-premises — Installs software on systems owned and operated by the enterprise.
- Hybrid — Combines the SaaS and on-premises models by allowing segmentation of users across both environments, or failover from on-premises to SaaS (either automated or manual) in high-load conditions or during a disaster.
- Managed services — IT management of the Web-conferencing solution is completely outsourced and managed either directly by the Web-conferencing vendor or by a third-party provider.