Another example of the consolidation of the eLearning industry became evident last week with the announcement that Cisco is buying Webex for $2.9 billion. http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2007/corp_031507b.html?sid=BAC-TS01
Cisco has long been considered a leader in its use of eLearning. In 1999, the CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, declared, "The next big killer application on the Internet is going to be education. Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make e-mail usage look like a rounding error." While it hasn't had that much impact yet, it is true that more and more major companies now have eLearning as a significant component of its training programs (estimated by some to represent about 30% of the market).
In spite of this leadership, I had always considered Cisco's role in the eLearning industry more as a user rather than an active participant. For many years Cisco has heavily relied on video as an eLearning tool - simply videotaping presentations and making them available on their intranet - not exactly innovative but it seems to work well for them.
Cisco's main business has been building and selling networking hardware and the software to support it. Now it seems that they are extending into human as well as technical networking.
Up to now, they have offered an authoring tool called the Cisco Learning Institute (CLI) Virtuoso Authoring System and a virtual classroom/web conferencing tool called Cisco Unified MeetingPlace. I haven't used either of them so I don't know much about them and I don't know if there is a connection between Unified MeetingPlace and Webex. It is clear that they will now be playing a more active role in the eLearning industry. The question remains if they will extend their reach even further.
Clearly Webex has been very successful in spite of substantial competition from virtual classroom/web conferencing software like iLinc, Elluminate, Microsoft Live Meeting, Interwise, Citrix GoToMeeting, and 70 more which are on my list (http://www.trimeritus.com/vendors.pdf). Many of these others use superior technologies. Webex' success seems to be based more on marketing which made them the choice for many large companies than it is about product quality.