Google buys video conferencing software

Google has bought video conferencing software from Marratech AB, a Stockholm-based vendor, and hired the engineers involved with the software, a Google spokesman said Friday.

For now, Google plans to use the software internally, as a tool for its employees, the spokesman said, declining to speculate whether Google might later try to market the technology or integrate it into one of its commercial products.

Should Google decide to market or integrate the technology into its products, the move would be seen as another in a string of recent steps taking Google into the sphere of collaborative work tools.

Marratech will continue to operate independently, supporting its customers and resellers following the software’s acquisition, it said on Thursday. However, the software now belongs to Google, so Marratech will not be able to market it anymore, the Google spokesman said.

Marratech’s engineers, who now are Google employees, will remain in Sweden and continue to develop the desktop conferencing software. Terms of the software acquisition were not disclosed.

With its cross-platform conferencing software, Marratech lets people do audio and video conferencing, application sharing and instant messaging. The client software runs on Windows 2000 or XP, Mac OS X 10.4, or versions of Linux including Mandriva 10.2, Suse 9.1 or Fedora Core 2, and requires a Pentium III or G4 processor running at 1GHz or faster. There is also a server component, Marratech Manager.

Marratech says it is cheaper for companies to buy its server-based system than to use Web-based conferencing services that charge by the minute. The company could be talking about services like that of WebEx Communications Inc., bought last month by Cisco Systems Inc. for US$3.2 billion.

(Updated to correct erroneous report that Google had bought the entire company.)

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