WebDialogs Unyte Re-emergers out of IBM SameTime Group…

... former WebDialogs CEO, now Lotus SameTime Director of Operations and Strategy, Lou Guercia leads a web seminar positioning the WebDialogs offerings, including Skype Extra Unyte Plus (to be renamed Unyte Share), within the overall SameTime product offering. Is IBM about to license Skype for real time communications technology?

Normally I don’t get into the predictions business and I do my best not to violate any confidences, especially when there is embargoed information that could affect the stock performance of a company. What I report on this post is purely my own speculation as a result of having my ear to the ground over the past few weeks and pulling together seemingly independent comments and information to arrive at what amounts to a possible, but still speculative, conclusion.

While many have speculated that Skype should play a "portal" role in social networking, my contention is that Skype is first and foremost a communications service that should enhance real time conversations across many portal and other collaborative services. Skype’s focus for research and development, marketing and business development resources should remain on building out this real time conversation infrastructure tools, not getting into businesses which would require a complete new set of business models to succeed (in a very competitive market space).

Recently I attended an press event for CheckPoint, a pioneer in securing Internet-based transmissions for the enterprise market (and more recently publisher of the highly regarded Zone Alarm security software for personal PC’s). I first encountered CheckPoint in the commercial Internet pioneering days of 1994-1996 A key point in the recent CheckPoint presentation was that, to this date, they have stuck to their knitting and are one of the most respected brand names when it comes to enterprise communications security. From their website: "Check Point’s PURE focus is on IT security with its extensive portfolio of network security, data security and security management solutions."

In the same way Skype, with continuous improvements to evolve its real time voice and video conversation infrastructure1, does not need to divert its time and resources to what are effectively social networking services that aggregate and support "friendship portal" networks and require a totally different business model. In a more formal way, Skype has started down the path of portal partnerships with the announcement of a forthcoming relationship with MySpace. In this post I present some enough information "crossing my desk" in the past days to question whether Skype is about to announce a partnership with one of IT’s pioneer enterprises who has taken to growth through acquisitions and partnerships.

Back in August, IBM’s Lotus SameTime division acquired Skype Developer Partner WeibDialogs, publisher of the Unyte Plus Skype Extra for desktop and application sharing as an escalation of a voice and/or chat conversation . WebDialogs CEO Lou Guericia and his team at WebDialogs went through many trials and tribulations to make Unyte desktop sharing and other web conferencing products a success. They targeted both retail customers, especially as a Skype Extra, and web conferencing resellers, of whom they had signed up over 50.. Yet, other than for a brief update discussion at the end of September, the WebDialogs team has been low profiles while getting the dust settled and establishing their legs at Lotus SameTime.

When a web seminar, with Lou presenting, was announced for Tuesday (yesterday) afternoon to announce the revamped Lotus SameTime line-up, my interest was piqued and I registered to attend the event. For the seminar Lou deployed the Lotus SameTime Unyte Meeting service; I logged in via a web browser, no downloads, quite easy to launch. Then Lou started going through the product line – SameTime’s legacy premise-based web conferencing offerings for enterprise installation and three new SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings SameTime Unyte Meeting for voice and web conferencing "for the price of a phone calls", the new SameTime Events for group events involving 5 to 500 participants and finally, purely for enhancing real time voice conversations, Lotus SameTime Unyte Plus (to be renamed Unyte Share) where simple desktop and application sharing is required as part of a standard business conversation. On talking about the last offering, Lou recalled how Unyte Plus truly is the fastest growing instant collaboration plug-in on market, largely as a result of working with Skype where Unyte has seen over 1.3 million downloads in the past 12 months.

When talking about Unyte Plus, Lou had more to say about Skype:

  • "Now that the dust has settled with respect to integration into IBM, we are redoubling our focus on partnership development with Skype."
  • "Skype is largely a consumer based service."
  • "Skype provides the best VoIP to PSTN gateway and points-of-presence on a global basis; Skype has become.the leader in taking voice to PSTN gateways."
  • "IBM personifies excellence in technology, support and coverage in market."
  • "Does it not makes sense to leverage off and trade off what the combination of Skype and IBM SameTime group are good at to bring to the table and the leverage the SMB market?"
  • "IBM is planning on spending more time with Skype and other big brands."

But that’s only half the story because in the Q&A following his presentation, Lou was asked about SameTime support for video conversations. Lou went on to announce expectations for an announcement of a video calling service in several weeks but then expanded on that comment; here are my notes of what he said:

  • Video announcement within next several weeks.
  • Not doing video at expense of partners; no talking head video.
  • Committed to providing a multi-media web conferencing experience; this not only
    entails sharing live web content along with application sharing and a library of published documents,
  • Enabled for chat, file transfer; done securely and in an encrypted fashion.
  • Also audio casting recording and ability to share video
  • Won’t be at expense of partners. Would not have broken down screen.
  • absolutely behind video.

Question: with IBM pursuing excellence on a service that comprises voice, video, chat and file transfer in a secure, encrypted environment, and with the stated goals of "working with their partners", would this not result in a situation where IBM would be licensing Skype technology to provide a comprehensive real time multi-media communications infrastructure?

Over the past few weeks I have learned that Skype is putting resources and recruiting into improving core audio and video quality while IBM has been leveraging partnerships to fill missing holes in their technology. In today’s presentation Lotus SameTime division talked about voice as a key element of their entire line of Unified Communications and Collaboration offering (IBM calls it UC2) .

Would it not be a fair prediction to assume, given:

  1. The statement of IBM’s ongoing search for excellence,
  2. Skype’s investment into acknowledgeably improving both audio and video quality and performance
  3. The more intensive exposure of IBM SameTime’s Unified Communications and Collaboration team to Skype over a few months
  4. WebDialog’s pioneering partnership work with Skype
  5. Not only Skype’s high quality voice and video but also more comprehensive real time conversation offering incorporating auxiliary services such as securely encrypted file transfer and chat,
  6. IBM’s expressed desire to work with its partners
  7. Microsoft’s current campaign launching their Unified Communications Services,

that IBM is investigating at least a licensing partnership for incorporation of Skype technology into its various SameTime real time communications offerings where appropriate?

1 While testing Skype’s recently launched High Quality Video, I have had many comments on the noticeably improved voice quality resulting from Skype 3.6 for Windows as well, providing better echo cancellation and improved quality for low bandwidth situations.

Tags: Skype, IBM, Lotus SameTime Division, WebDialogs, Unyte, Unified Communications, Microsoft, Skype Extras, Skype Developer Program

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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