WebEx, one of the biggest names in real-time online communication for the enterprise, widened its reach and its services by buying Intranets.com and its hosted collaboration suite this week.
Intranets.com will cost WebEx $45 million. The deal is expected to close before the end of August.
The Intranets.com suite of products includes a document manager, online calendar and scheduling, a task manager, discussion forums, a database manager, e-mail, administrative tools, contact directories, expense reports, and polls.
Last year, Intranets.com introduced Web conferencing, the only product in its suite that overlaps with the WebEx product line.
Subrah Iyar, CEO of WebEx, said the acquisition of Intranets.com will allow WebEx to “go wide,” not only with a broad line of products, but by opening the elusive small business market to WebEx.
While Intranets.com is proud of its enterprise customers, such as NASA and The Home Depot, the fact remains that many of the company’s 300,000 users and 10,000 business customers come from organizations with 100 employees or less.
The small business market is difficult to penetrate because it’s very fragmented, said Intranets.com CEO Rick Faulk, but Intranets.com used the Internet to sell, deliver, and support its suite of products to small businesses and turn a profit. With some 10 million small businesses out there, WebEx took notice.
“They have proven capabilities for small business,” Iyar said in the conference call announcing the deal. “We now have a significant headstart in taking advantage of this opportunity.”
In addition to marrying asynchronous and real-time communication, Intranets.com will, as a wholly owned subsidiary of WebEx, offer WebEx products and services to the small business market.
Some of the biggest names in enterprise software have been active in the online communication and collaboration space.
In addition to taking advantage of the Internet’s ability to bring remote offices and workers together, e-mail has proven itself a poor collaboration tool in part because of spam.
More integrated offerings that complement or work within applications seem to be the trend. Microsoft acquired Groove, and has its own LiveMeeting product closely tied to its Office applications.
IBM’s Lotus division has worked in adding online presence and the ability integrate instant messaging into applications.
Iyar said one of the keys to Intranets.com is its hosted model, which trumps applications that are expensive to operate and require special skills to maintain. Groove, for example, is a peer-to-peer model that requires a client download.
“The key is it’s offered as a service and will complement existing services,” Iyar said of Intranets.com.
Intranets.com could also integrate tightly with a WebEx offering called MyWebExPC, which offers a free, secure connection to remote PCs.
It’s been quite a ride for Intranets.com. The Massachusetts-based company has existed in any number of incarnations since it was founded in 1996 as a packaged intranet software vendor. In mid-1999, the company converted to a free, advertising-supported model.
In mid-2001, the business plan changed again when Intranets.com went to a paid subscription model, which it now uses for all of its customers.
For the immediate future, Intranets.com users will notice very little in the way of changes until the deal closes.
WebEx did sign an OEM agreement to take over the Web conferencing for Intranets.com customers from Netspoke, a WebEx competitor. “They have a much more robust [conferencing] offering than they would get yesterday,” Iyar said.