PGi releases GlobalMeet 5.0, as demand for web conferencing grows

PGi has revamped its flagship virtual meeting platform with the release of GlobalMeet 5.0. Many enterprises now prefer web conferencing over traditional dial-in calls.

PGi has overhauled the architecture and interface of GlobalMeet, making the process of joining and hosting virtual meetings easier on the cloud-based web conferencing platform. The latest version, GlobalMeet 5.0, will eventually replace PGi's other online meeting tools, iMeet and ReadyTalk Meeting.

Within GlobalMeet 5.0, launched this week, PGi ditched Flash and Session Initiation Protocol in favor of HTML5 and WebRTC. The two technologies let users make phone calls; broadcast over webcams; and share files and screens using Google Chrome or Internet Explorer, Apple iOS and Android apps, or an optional desktop program. 

"Whether it's a desktop, just a straight browser or a mobile device, it's one click into the meeting to join it, or to start it if you're a host," said Patrick Harper, CTO at PGi, based in Atlanta.

Up to 125 people can participate in one meeting, although the platform should support conferences of up to 300 to 500 people eventually, Harper said. PGi's around-the-clock customer support is quicker to access in the 5.0 interface, allowing hosts to chat with company representatives during meetings.   

Wainhouse Research, which provided consulting services to PGi while the vendor was developing GlobalMeet 5.0, predicted that personalized web-based conferencing (PWC) platforms like GlobalMeet will soon take prominence over stand-alone dial-in audio services, or the traditional conference call.

Wainhouse, based in Duxbury, Mass., projected the PWC market and the stand-alone audio market will each generate $2.8 billion in revenues globally in 2018. Historically, the audio market had been "dramatically bigger" than the web conferencing market, said Marc Beattie, senior analyst at Wainhouse.

"The reason that people are moving to PWC in general, and why they would move to 5.0, is it's a richer experience," Beattie said. "I can do what I need to do if I need to do it, instead of having to pivot between different applications."

Moving ReadyTalk Meeting, iMeet customers to GlobalMeet

PGi's web conferencing portfolio also includes iMeet and ReadyTalk Meeting. The company plans to migrate users off those products to GlobalMeet, starting with iMeet customers sometime in 2018. PGi is still deciding exactly how and when to transition its ReadyTalk Meeting clients.

Not all the features in iMeet and ReadyTalk are expected to become a part of GlobalMeet. For example, PGi does not plan to carry over the webinar and webcast platforms available in the other products.

PGi has been under pressure to consolidate what was becoming an unwieldy product portfolio. A December 2017 report on visual collaboration by Aragon Research Inc., based in Morgan Hill, Calif., cited PGi's overlapping product offerings as the company's weakness.

Siris Capital Group LLC, a New York-based private equity firm that also owns Polycom, bought PGi for roughly $1 billion in 2015. PGi, which boasts 45,000 customers worldwide, competes with web conferencing providers BlueJeans, Zoom, Fuze, Microsoft and Cisco.

Web-based video platforms replacing hardware

PGi's reboot of GlobalMeet comes as companies are spending less on video conferencing hardware. Sales of video endpoints are expected to drop nearly 17% between 2017 and 2022, as businesses turn to cloud platforms and web-based applications for video, said Rich Costello, a senior research analyst with IDC.

Nemertes Research, meanwhile, predicted around 72% of the 700 businesses it surveyed around the world will use cloud-based web conferencing of some kind in 2018, up from 63% in 2017.

Today, the market is open to small and large vendors because companies are willing to test different web conferencing tools as they develop an overall unified communications strategy, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes, based in Mokena, Ill. Companies often find the offerings of PGi and Zoom, for example, easier to use than what's included in the UC platforms of vendors like Microsoft or Avaya, he said.

By 2021, spending on cloud video conferencing will reach $739 million worldwide, more than double the $351 million in revenue in 2016, according to a July 2017 study by London-based IHS Markit.

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