The price of web conferencing must come down and the major players know it. Leading web conferencing companies may not care to admit it in public, but their business is headed straight for commodity status--or so would seem the fate of mmost internet technologies. But that means good things for consumers.
It seems like only a few short years ago that a two or three companies held virtually undisputed monopolies on the market for web conferencing products. They might have changed parent companies a few times since then, but their technology hasn't changed much.
Back then, startups had virtually guaranteed uphill battle against the major players. In a well-planned series of moves, the sky-high prices charged by the industries frontrunners--along with an admirable focus on courting deep-pocketed corporate customers--provided all the financial cushioning they needed to secure their market positions and maintain dominance for a long time to come.
Now, things are changing. There's too many startups to fight off or buy out. The question on everyone's mind is, how long can major web conferencing companies hold their ground against the onslaught of new conferencing solutions threatening to erode away their market share, along with their margins?
Just think back to the last time you had to pay for an email account. To think, that people once paid for those, purchasing them by the dozens. And where, once, domain names sold at prices clearing the $39/year mark, paying those kinds of figures today is considered nothing short of highway robbery. Not to mention the plummeting price of large scale cms's... Those are just a few examples which serve to reinforce the point that the price of web conferencing technology must come down in parity with the price of other technologies.
If history is any precedent, the purveyors of real-time collaboration technologies will have to dream up new and ingenius profit models to make this happen while maintaining their fiscal health as a company. There's still plenty of room for innovation in this space. We still havn't seen a truly amazing free solution come out yet. As far as I know, noone's developing a Host-your-own web conferencing platform that you pay for once and own forever.
Here's what we do know. Hosting companies had to turn to customer specialization. Search engines had to invent a new business model which was to become the inspiration for whole new way of thinking about how to monetize websites. In the final summation, even portals are being forced to reconcile the diminishing value of content by trading those eyeballs to advertisers.
Now that we live in a world where email and these other services have become a front-end for what can only be described as a never-ending crusade for people's attention, might an ad supported model be feasible in web conferencing space?
Although it would be presumptuous of me to arbitrate failure, history can be incredibly demonstrative. Analyzing the major developments that came before suggests that the widespread adoption of web conferencing by the masses will evolve along a predetermined path, looking something like this:
- Some piss-ant little startup will endeavor to open up the realm of high-priced solutions to the masses. They launch disruptively low-priced solution calculated for maximum market penetration.
- Piss ant startup offers a gigantic leap in value and affordability which defies feature-by-feature comparison with competitors.
- Price conscious users of rival products smell a better deal, leaving their old providers.
- Market players get technologically restrained by rising consumer expectations of value.
- Word spreads to new users and expanding the original market
At any rate, I wouldn't want to be in our competitions' shoes right now. Web conferencing tools, and the people who design them, have begun to proliferate like rabbits. A host of new as well as tried-and-true business models are finally coming out of the woodwork at last and the overall feeling is that spring is in the air for web conferencing in general.
Like all efficient markets should operate, agile upstarts erode away at the tired old monopolies so that it is the consumer who comes out the clear winner in the end. Every new tool that comes out raises the bar for the whole industry and lowers the markets tolerance for compromises of value.
It would have to be a very novel new industry indeed to resist following in the footsteps of so many industries that are today regarded as commodities. We at Cool Conference Live believe, as others, that the web conferencing companies who herald this movement will be rewarded with the lions share of the love.