Cisco serves up $3.2 billion to buy WebEx

Cisco Systems plans to spend $3.2 billion to buy the online conferencing company WebEx, both companies confirmed Thursday. The WebEx software and hosted service allows for on-demand collaboration between businesses and is to be a key product for small and medium-size businesses as part of Cisco's Unified Communications product portfolio. The networking giant already offers some collaboration tools, but it does not offer a hosted service such as WebEx's. With a hosted service, businesses can use collaboration tools but do not need to buy the expensive software and hardware required to host on their own network. The acquisition of WebEx also helps level the playing field with Microsoft, which already has a hosted collaboration offering known as Live Meeting.

"WebEx was one of the early leaders in the market for making network-based technology. And it's a natural extension for Cisco's Unified Communication products to give users inside and outside the workplace a way to work and collaborate," said Charles Giancarlo, chief development officer for Cisco.

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