AT&T is paying $121 million for privately held Interwise, a global provider of voice, Web and video conferencing services to businesses. The former Ma Bell will meld the new acquisition into AT&T Global Business Services, the unit it’s targeted at enterprise-class customers worldwide.
The acquisition, which is expected to close before the end of the year, pits AT&T Global Business Services directly against a lineup of industry goliaths: IBM, Adobe, Google and — most of all — Cisco Systems, which bought rival WebEx Communications for some $3.2 billion in cash earlier this year (TelecomWeb news break, March 16). WebEx, with a claimed 64-percent market share, is the 600-pound gorilla in the market, which is clearly reflected in the difference between the amounts paid by AT&T and Cisco.
In theory, Interwise is a U.S. company with headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. In fact, it is an Israeli company, where its key R&D operations still reside. The company employs about 150 people in its operations in the United States, Europe and Asia, all of whom are expected to remain with AT&T.
“Our enhanced capabilities will enable businesses around the globe to use conferencing as more than just a substitute for face-to-face meetings. The IP-collaboration solutions offered by Interwise will help customers increase the impact of their efforts by allowing employees to work on joint projects simultaneously with colleagues and partners, share information regardless of their location or device and make better business decisions,” says AT&T Global Business Services Group President Ronald E. Spears.
The technology and products AT&T is buying are converged, IP-based conferencing solutions for enterprises. Its integrated voice, Web and video conferencing system integrates VoIP- and TDM-based audio in a product aimed primarily at large, global enterprises. In addition to offering on-premise and fully hosted conferencing, Interwise offers a hybrid solution that promises enterprises will receive the cost and security benefits of on-site software with the rapid startup, geographic reach and capacity protection of its hosted service.
The AT&T acquisition of Interwise is the latest in what looks like a gold rush to cash in on Web conferencing. Cisco’s acquisition of WebEx was the biggest, followed barely a month later, in April, with Google buying Web-conferencing technology from Marratech. Then, in August, IBM bought WebDialogs. Adobe, meanwhile, entered the market when it picked up Web-conferencing technology as part of its 2005 acquisition of Macromedia.