Tag Archives | Web Conferencing

GoToMeeting Gets Videoconferencing

Built-in videoconferencing is an almost-standard feature in Web conferencing services these days–it’s even in SlideShare’s free Zipcast. It has, however, been missing from one of the biggest names in the business: Citrix’s GoToMeeting. But Citrix is announcing today that HDFaces, the video feature it revealed last October is going live after a bit of a delay. The company told me about the new feature last week in an appropriate way: it let me participate in a GoToMeeting session that used it. (That’s three folks from Citrix and me in the screenshot above.) Even though I was on so-so hotel Wi-Fi, it worked well.

HDFaces lets up to six people partake in a video conversation, with each person appearing in a window up to 640-by-480 in resolution. (The “HD” presumably refers to the maximum combined resolution of all the streaming video if six people are online at once–1920 by 960.) The technology adjusts for the bandwidth available: during the demo I got, the picture and audio stayed in sync and the session was about 98 percent free of choppiness or other obvious defects. As you’d expect, the video windows are integrated with GoToMeeting’s existing desktop sharing, text chat, and other features.

Starting today, HDFaces will be included at no extra charge as part of a standard GoToMeeting account, which costs $49 a month or $468 a year for unlimited meetings. (That’s for the host–it doesn’t cost anything to attend.) Archrival Webex already has videoconferencing in both its browser-based version and its iPad application: Citrix says it intends to bring the video feature to its mobile apps in the future.

 


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Four Technological Holy Grails

If you could somehow transport me as I was fifteen years ago to 2011, the old me would be flabbergasted by how much technology improved in so little time. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you showed 1996 Harry an iPad, I’d insist that it was either a hoax or witchcraft.

But if 1996 Harry stuck around in 2011 for a while and used modern tech products, I’d also be surprised by some things that haven’t changed. Annoying things. Annoying things that I would have assumed would have been fixed long before the second decade of the new millennium rolled around.

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SlideShare Adds Extremely Simple, Surprisingly Painless Web Conferencing

SlideShare, a four-year-old site that lets anyone share presentations created in PowerPoint and other apps, is branching out. Today, it introduced Zipcast, a nifty, super-simple Web conferencing service that aims to avoid the complexity and high pricetags of established conferencing services.

It’s less of a stand-alone service and more of an extension of SlideShare’s existing features–in fact, anyone can turn public SlideShare presentations created by other people into a Zipcast. The best thing about is how, well, zippy it is.

I’m used to gritting my teeth when it comes time to join a Web conferencing–they can take minutes to load, are occasionally fussy about arcane issues like my Java setup, and sometimes decide they don’t like my Web browser. SlideShare’s service, which uses a combination of HTML5 and Flash, is compatible with all modern browsers and is fast and frustration-free for both the presenter and presentees. (“Modern browsers,” incidentally, doesn’t include Internet Explorer 6.) You can launch a conferencing session in your browser with a few clicks, and it’s live immediately–no plug-ins (other than Flash) required.

The service permits you to allow an unlimited number of attendees into your Web conference; they see your show as you step through the slides and can discuss it in a chat window. You can broadcast a video feed from your Webcam, and there’s a conference line option for dial-in audio.

Zipcast is by no means a full-on replacement for services such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft’s Live Meeting: It doesn’t have full-blown features for inviting attendees (although you can simply paste your Zipcast meeting URL into any scheduler) and doesn’t let you share your computer’s screen, for example. Rather than giving you a unique URL for each conference, it provides you with a single one (such as slideshare.net/technologizer/meeting) where all your conferences take place.

If all you want to do is step folks through a presentation and discuss it, Zipcast gets the job done with a minimum of fuss. But as a presenter who likes to control the flow of a show and build up suspense, I do wish that it were possible to turn off the feature that lets attendees page ahead through your presentation at will. (Then again, I guess it’s better if attendees sneak a peek at later slides than that they abandon my presentation entirely.)

Unlike most Web conferencing services, Zipcast has an offering for freebie lovers. If you don’t want to password-protect your conference and don’t mind ads, you can use it for free, and conference in as many people as you want. By subscribing to any of SlideShare’s for-pay tiers (which start at $19 a month) you can protect shows from prying eyes and ditch the ads.

If you really don’t care who sees your Zipcast–or even actively want random interested folks to discover it and join in–you can make it public. That makes it show up in a Facebook-like public feed of activity on the Zipcast homepage, alerting the world to your conference.

Zipcast is neat. The next time I need to give a presentation over the Web, I’ll be inclined to give it a whirl–and if someone invites me to a Zipcast, I won’t gird myself for potential technical trouble in way I usually do when attending Web meetings.

 

 


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Four Words: WebEx on a Phone

phonetopp-logoHere’s one for the I-Want-to-See-It-in-Action-But-It’s-a-Great-Idea File: A company called PhoneTopp, which launched today at the Under the Radar Conference, promises to let you participate in or even lead a WebEx or Microsoft Live Meeting Web confernce on your iPhone or BlackBerry. The company’s service sits as a middleman beween the Web conferencing system and your phone, squeezing presentation slides and video down into phone-friendly size on the fly:

phonetopp

Would it be hard to read slides on a teensy phone display? Maybe, but PhoneTopp will let you zoom in, zoom out, and pan around. One particularly nifty feature: You don’t even have to log on to get into the conference from your phone. PhoneTopp calls you at the appropriate time; answer the call, and it automatically scoots you into the conference.

The company says that it’ll begin offering the service in the first quarter of next year, for $8 to $10 a month. I got a sneak peek yesterday, but it was in video form, and therefore looked flawless; as someone who sits in on more than my share of conferences from odd spots like my car or an airport lounge, I’d love to see it live. And I’ll bet a lot of other WebEx and Live Meeting users would be tickled to have access via their phone, if it worked halfway decently.

As a company, PhoneTopp sounds like it may not have an infinite shelf life: You gotta think that WebEx, Microsoft, and every other company that does conferencing will build their own phone versions eventually. (PhoneTopp told me that Citrix is already at work on a phone version of GoToMeeting, which is why PhoneTopp isn’t planning to support it.) The company says that it knows that there may not be a need for its conferencing service forever, so it’s planning to roll out other collaboration tools that make the Web more mobile over time.


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