RealTime IT News

Q&A: PlaceWare CEO George Garrick

Web conferencing will be taking on a new significance later this spring when Microsoft completes its announced acquisition of Mountain View, Calif.-based PlaceWare. Microsoft has said its ultimate plan is to make the audio/visual application as commonplace as e-mail or instant messaging is today.

Originally Microsoft began its Web conferencing path with NetMeeting, which developed into a conferencing service available through its Exchange servers. Now they are starting up a new Real Time Collaboration Group in which they will combine PlaceWare and its Greenwich instant messaging division.

PlaceWare CEO George Garrick sat down with internetnews.com to talk about the acquisition as well as the significance of Web conferencing to business and consumers. After taking the reigns of the company in May 2002, Garrick pledged to make the company profitable and take it public. He says being acquired by Microsoft was the last thing on his mind.

Q: How did PlaceWare and Microsoft come to this agreement? Talk about the process.

We had no intention of being acquired. We were hoping to be one of the first Silicon Valley companies to go public once the market warmed up again. We had a whole line of bankers courting us for an IPO and that was our stated objective -- to build the company and to be highly IPO-able.

If you have the right story, you can go public and bankers were telling us that we were definitely one of the companies that could go public in '03. We were waiting to get a little bigger and not have as much dilution.

That said, we also had to be willing to entertain opportunities that come along that were not anticipated. In this case, this opportunity with Microsoft came along. It was in the best interests of the company and investors and even though we were not planning on it, it turned out to be a good decision.

Q: Are the two companies compatible?

We think the cultures are very compatible. As we said on the day of the announcement, we think that both companies share a common culture with respect to being driven about technology, being passionate about technology, believing in empowering individuals and being the leader and innovator in our space.

Q: Some people are pointing to Web conferencing as the 'next killer app'. What is your take on it?

I've been saying it all along. There are a bunch of reasons. It's a natural evolution in the way people communicate. If you think about the evolution of audio conferencing -- that has gotten more sophisticated. If you think of how people have shared documents -- that has gone from mail to Federal Express to fax and now e-mail. And the state-of-the-art for most meetings is that people hook up with a conference call and then they flip through their PCs over materials on that were sent around by whomever is holding the meeting.

The next step in that progression is to bring those two streams together -- the data and the audio into a virtual space.

By doing Web conferencing, in many ways you can find that the meeting is so much more effective with people avoiding travel. The meeting itself is much more efficient and there is a written record and it is very low cost. People spend half of the time doing some type of collaboration either by phone or in some type of meeting. So if you can make that more efficient, you can benefit every worker.

Q: Are you still developing the platform?

We're always looking at ways of making our product better. In the next few months we're introducing a new client interface that will be based on native Windows rather than Java, which is what we use today. That was a decision that we made some months ago even before Microsoft even contacted us. It gives us a better functionality such as drop down menus and right clicking. We are also working to do more to embed audio multimedia so that you will be able to control the phone call right from the product.

Continued on next page with: "The Future of PlaceWare"