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Sabre Travel Network by June expects to launch its new virtual meetings distribution marketplace for corporate travelers and arrangers who use GetThere's newly released home page, 200,000 travel agents using Sabre Red and others via a website.
In partnership with Polycom, Sabre Virtual Meetings was forged in 2010 through partnerships with Tata Communications and Cisco [see correction below]. The partnership more recently expanded to include Regus, Glowpoint and other virtual meeting room or technology providers to incorporate public high-definition videoconferencing room inventory into a booking system. Sabre officials also are reaching out to corporations to entice them to use the distribution channel to manage and perhaps even rent their virtual conferencing rooms to others.
That corporate-owned market has grown to an estimated 7,000 rooms as of January 2012, up from 2,000 in 2008 and 5,500 in 2010, according to industry consultant Richard Line's annual market analysis published in the Telepresence and Videoconference Insight Newsletter. About 100 more telepresence rooms are offered in hotels, mainly through Tata at Marriott and Starwood brands, he said. The largest corporate networks, Line said, include Bank of America with 200 units, Bosch Siemens HausGerate (120), Procter & Gamble (80) and Accenture (50). He added that Huawei of China by the end of 2010 installed more than 500 systems, mostly in China, and last year entered the European market.
GetThere general manager and Sabre Virtual Meetings head Suzanne Neufang said she "forbade her staff from calling it a GDS for virtual meetings, but essentially that's what it is. It is a place where you can have publicly available, for-rent content or privately available, not-for-rent content." The marketplace affords users "lots of security" to block access to other companies or even hierarchies within their own companies.
To simplify connecting conferencing solutions of various companies, Sabre in December partnered with Glowpoint to use its OpenVideo cloud to provide users with "video bridging, helpdesk and concierge services," without the need for video infrastructure on the customer's network. To ensure reliability of the rooms booked through the distribution tool, Glowpoint and Sabre plan to develop remote conference room monitoring and management tools.
For companies interested in using the distribution platform to manage their own remote conference room inventory, Neufang said GetThere is holding "IT to IT conversations" to automatically upload inventory. "We've had a really successful beta run of companies loading space into the new marketplace. We've perfected the process. There are policy engines around that," as well as methods to limit "who can see my content."
Sabre also plans to offer real-time access to more than 1,200 Regus public communications rooms in 550 cities, as well as rooms offered by Tata and Cisco.
Neufang said the subscription model used for the new services was "to be determined. It's going to be some kind of cost per listing because we're housing the availability. The return on investment is the productivity increase in people being able to book with just one click instead of spending hours on the phone."
Booking a three-room videoconference that involved externally controlled space today "can take a week as you return phone calls and determine availability," and then organizers must hope "you're not bumped," Neufang said. "Policy will be interesting because you have the concept of 'bumpability'—that an asset can be allocated to someone more senior" or another conference during a business emergency.
GetThere customers would be able to add to the top of the new GetThere home page a Sabre Virtual Meetings tab to allow employees to book a remote conference much as they book air, car and hotel. Whether through Sabre Red or a website, Neufang said, travel agents would be able to book a traveler into the closest available videoconferencing room to conduct business.
Sabre hatched the plan for Virtual Meetings by "watching our customers," said GetThere chief product and strategy officer Paul Wiley. "Customers said we need a way to manage both travel and telepresence. At the time, they were using dynamic messaging, trying to pull this information together." Helping customers do that, Sabre recognized the need for the inventory and distribution solution to manage telepresence rooms as well as the need to integrate the booking of such rooms into the travel process.
International Data Corp. projected that worldwide enterprise videoconferencing revenues would reach almost $3.2 billion in 2012, up 18.7 percent year over year after growing 20.6 percent in 2011. But IDC said "worldwide immersive telepresence revenue, the high-cost, high-end HD segment of the enterprise video and telepresence spectrum, came in at just over $315 million in 2011, a 22 percent decrease from 2010." The drop, said IDC senior research analyst Rich Costello, is "further evidence of an increasing trend of video pushing downmarket in the enterprise to a growing segment of smaller workgroup, desktop and mobile collaboration users."
Correction, April 13: An earlier version of this report incorrectly described Sabre Virtual Meetings
as a joint venture. Wholly owned by Sabre Holdings, Sabre Virtual Meetings has
partnered with Polycom, Regus, Glowpoint and others on the product.
This report originally appeared in The Beat.
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