WebEx to offer free remote PC access

WebEx Communications has today unveiled a new remote access service, the first in a line of new "MyWebEx" services aimed at consumers and small businesses.

The service, dubbed "MyWebExPC," will be available in both free and subscription versions. WebEx is entering a crowded space with competition from Citrix Online's "GoToMyPC," 3am Labs' LogMeIn and other vendors. Citrix charges US$19.95 a month for its basic product, 3am Labs offers a free and a US$12.95 a month Pro version.

WebEx's free MyWebExPC lets a user control a remote PC through a standard Web browser. The Pro version, priced at US$9.95 a month, offers extras such as remote printing, full color support and enhanced security, including control over which applications can be accessed remotely. It also has a feature that calls a user when logging in and requires a the entry of a PIN on the phone before granting access.

WebEx is best known for its Web conferencing products, which it sells mostly to medium-sized businesses and large enterprises. The company is using remote access technology from its WebEx Web conferencing software as the basis of MyWebExPC.

"With this new offering, we're aggressively looking at emerging markets," said Praful Shah, a vice president at WebEx. "We will aggressively pursue this market to get a leadership position as we expand to the individual users and small businesses."

Citrix Online, a division of remote access software maker Citrix Systems Inc., is undaunted by the competition from WebEx. "There are many players who are trying to get into this space, but we have not seen their activities in the market and GoToMyPC is still the leading brand," said Bernardo De Albergaria, general manager of electronic commerce at Citrix Online.

GoToMyPC was launched four years ago and about 160,000 individuals and 7,000 businesses use the product, De Albergaria said.

WebEx plans to roll out additional MyWebEx services throughout the year, Shah said. He declined to specify those services. However, insiders expect WebEx to launch services for simple online meetings and customer support, similar to those offered by Citrix Online.

The MyWebExPC product works with PCs running Windows 98 and above and is initially available in English only, but will be offered in additional languages over the year, according to WebEx. The call-back security feature in MyWebExPC Pro currently works in the U.S. and Canada only.

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Joris Evers

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