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I participate in a good number of “virtual” conferences mainly software demos from companies that either want some feedback or are pitching a story. Most of the conferences use either WebEx or GoToMeeting. Today on the nextNY list, David Reinke from StyleHop asked for some alternatives that are either free or lower cost than GoToMeeting and/or WebEx. The group provided a few suggestions and they are listed below.
Adobe Acrobat Connect Now
Hank Williams suggested Adobe Acrobat Connect Now which provides a free service up to 3 participants. For over 3 and up to 1,500 the Pro version is available for $0.32/min/user. The tools include remote control, whiteboard, desktop sharing, video conferencing and unique meeting URLs. I’ve only used the tool once and if I remember we had some issues getting the meeting running but after it started all went smoothly.
Yugma was my suggestion and an application we reviewed back in January 2007. Yugma offers Skype integration, desktop sharing, teleconferencing, file storage and meeting recording. Yugma runs using Java. Up to 20 participants is free and Pro plans start at $15 and go up to $180/month. I like Yugma because there’s no app to install unlike WebEx and the various times I’ve used the service, it’s worked well.
Peter Chislett offered up DimDim as an alternative suggestion. Peter notes, “All features (video, screen sharing, voice, document sharing, whiteboard, etc.) are no-fee for an audience of 20, pro-version
thereafter. Webcam is limited to one in the free version.” The Pro version is available at $20/month for meetings up to 50 people. DimDim offers a slick widget to allow site and blog visitors to participate in a conference call or meeting. DimDim is available as open source so you can add it to your own applications.
Do you use one of the three above or another solution? Leave your thoughts in the comments and I will add them to the post.
Yugma is a simple-to-use desktop sharing application that we reviewed earlier in the year. This past week Yugma launched a Skype Edition of the tool offering quick desktop sharing access to anyone you are chatting with using Skype.
"We wanted to build upon Skype’s legendary ease of use," said Karel Lukas, COO of Yugma. "Skype makes it easy for people to stay in constant contact and to communicate with one another spontaneously. We believe collaboration needs to move in the same direction, which is why it was natural for Yugma and Skype to come together."
"It’s as simple as clicking ‘Start Sharing’ in the Yugma window and your friend can see your entire desktop. Press another button in the window and you can swap the sharing power to them… so users of Windows and Mac can share desktops with each other!" wrote Caitlin of Skype in last week’s Skype Developer Program Newsletter.
Yugma offers free and paid options. The free is actually quite powerful and is ad-supported. The paid plans offer additional services such as a recorder, file storage and scheduling. I’ve used it a bunch of times for demos and it’s easier than using WebEx as there is no software to install.
I had the chance to chat with Olga Cantarella today. Olga is co-founder and CEO of LiveLOOK which is the easiest-to-use desktop sharing app I have ever seen. What I like about it is that it’s just desktop sharing, nothing more, nothing less. No WebEx overhead to deal with.
There is no software to install (uses Java) and in our demo, the movement was smooth. The host signs up for an account and then a 5-digit code is issued. The host gives that code to the attendees and the attendees enter the code and then the desktop sharing begins. Pricing is 2.5 cents per minute per user (the host is a user) and is rechargeable via Google Checkout. (there is a $5 initial credit)
LiveLOOK also offers a b2b product which looks pretty strong for startups who provide customer service. It’s basically the same service as above except you can use a button to initiate the desktop sharing for your customers. The button can be placed anywhere. This product is available at $59 per agent per month.
My suggestion for Olga is to look at small agencies for their products. Agencies collaborate with remote employees and with clients and since most times they have their own conference calling solution, this might be a good desktop share replacement.
As I was surfin’ around the net yesterday, I stumbled across a cool web app called Yugma. Yugma is a web app that brings together desktop sharing, and web conferencing, You can call together a few people that you work with, and you can show them your desktop, and demo software, or other things. It’s really cool. It is built off of java and will run on Windows and Macintosh. After I did a little digging, I found that Yugma is a venture backed company, which has offices in Minnesota, and India.
I actually found this to be one of, if not the most useful apps I’ve ‘played’ with to date. I can open it up, tell a friend, or a co-worker to hop on, and we can have a conference. The thing that I really like about this app is that it is all live, fast, and quick. Instead of having to upload or email a file to the other people, I can just pull it up on my own desktop and show it to them.
A cool thing with this, is that you can use annotation tools which is extremely useful for presenting ideas. I took a few screenshots of how this works, they’re down at the bottom of the page. With the annotation tools, you can use a freehand tool, which allows you to draw any shape you want. You can use the circle shape as well as the oval shape. Then there is the rectangle tool, along with the rounded corner rectangle tool. All of these can be used to highlight certain areas, and such.
The annotation tools are the first thing that helps out while presenting to other conference members. Another thing that helps, of course, is audio! This is a feature that I think needs some work, for Yugma, but it is cool, never the less. Currently you can call a number, with a Duluth, Minnesota area code, and dial into a conference call.
When you call in, you can talk to whoever else called in. To me, it seems like it may be a better idea, to allow people to talk right through the client. It would be really awesome to setup a VoIP run service. Where you could talk through the client, as well as allowing someone who doesn’t have a computer, to call in to a specific number, and be part of the conversation
Overall I think that this is an extremely useful app. It takes desktop sharing, and conferencing to the next level, at least from what I’ve seen. It allows me to demo things for people, that I normally couldn’t demo. The only downside is the communication for voice, but that is easily solved with something like Skype.