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It's All About Integration: Enterprise Year in Review

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One way to chart the progress of the enterprise multimedia sector in 2007 was to take a trip to Duluth, Minn.

You’d hardly expect to see a technology revolution in progress in this upper Midwest smokestack town located on the westernmost tip of Lake Superior. But in a 6-story office building nestled in the heart of Duluth’s active downtown, at least one company already is reaping the benefits from the implementation of online rich media in day-to-day business communications.

2007 marked the first full year in which the region’s electric utility—now operating under the name Allete—has implemented online audio and video. Although still relatively new to the technology, the company has discovered ways to use online multimedia for everything from employee safety training to offering daily exercise programs that employees can access at their desks. Now, the company is producing internal webcasts at a clip of nearly one per week.

"I wouldn’t say there were doubting Thomases, but we had to prove that people would use it," says Marcia Opien, a lead end-user support executive in Allete’s Information Technology Solutions Group. "Some of the people just went wild and were quite excited about it."

As it turns out, the workers at Allete weren’t the only ones getting excited about business online multimedia in 2007. As awareness of consumer services such as YouTube increases in corporate ranks, more and more corporate executives are recognizing the potential for integrating online audio and video into their communications efforts.

For many, 2007 marked an inflection point in the evolution of the enterprise online multimedia technology industry. As adoption of the technology for business use continued to gain ground in the past year, a growing number of major technology vendors, such as Cisco Systems, began making bigger bets than ever before on the future of enterprise web video.

The confluence of forces is working to raise the profile of enterprise multimedia in the eyes of prospective business users while upping the stakes for technology vendors competing in this space, says Rich Mavrogeanes, chief technology officer and founder of VBrick—a long-time competitor in the business online multimedia sector.

"The effects of YouTube are being felt on the corporate side," Mavrogeanes says. "Online multimedia is not being dismissed anymore," he adds. "It’s becoming a significant part of any company’s unified communications strategy."

Follow the Money
Corporate spending on online multimedia technology certainly continues to rise. Interactive Media Strategies (IMS) estimates that business users spent $350 million on online multimedia technology in 2007, up 24% from the 2006 market total of $282 million.

While the current pace of market growth would not make entrepreneurs from the dotcom bubble era green with envy, long-term sector participants now see a marketplace that is rising from a firm foundation rooted in helping organizations meet their objectives.

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