New WebEx App Shows Cisco Remembers the BlackBerry Exists
Cisco's WebEx for BlackBerry is a welcome addition for the mainstay of enterprise mobile devices, allowing BlackBerry users to easily join or host collaborations sessions to view presentations shared by other attendees.
While Cisco has been actively developing interesting new applications for the iPhone, delivering WebEx, SIO To Go, and the M-Learning application for Apple devices within the last year, they've to date been full of only vague promises about when they would deliver similar applications for the BlackBerry, even though Cisco's core audience is more likely to have a BlackBerry in their pocket (at least in North America). Hopefully, the arrival of the WebEx for BlackBerry signals an end to that trend.
WebEx for BlackBerry is available as a free download from BlackBerry App World or from http://www.webex.com/blackberry. While the download and installation worked fine from App World, I was not able to successfully install the application from the Web page using either the native browser on my Bold 9700 or Opera Mini.
WebEx for BlackBerry should work on any BlackBerry handheld running OS version 4.6 or higher.
On the BlackBerry, the WebEx feature set is comparable to that delivered for the iPhone. I found that I could either host a meeting or join one scheduled by someone else. As is the case with the iPhone, as a host on the BlackBerry, I found myself unable to actually schedule a conference from the application.
Also like with the iPhone iteration, I was not able to share documents, presentations or my screen with other conference attendees. However, I was able to hand off presentation control to another user in the meeting who was using a PC. The transfer of share authority can be completed by switching to the attendee view, highlighting a user with the PC icon next to the name, and toggling the BlackBerry menu button to select "Make Presenter." Although the handoff worked seamlessly, the process isn't as slick as with the iPhone, which asks the user to simply touch-drag the WebEx logo from one user to another.
Using the BlackBerry application, I was able to easily view documents, applications and desktop shared by another user presenting from a PC. I was not able to view video content presented out of Windows Media Player (nor was I able to view that on the iPhone, either).
From the BlackBerry application's context menu, I could also access a small number of controls that allowed me to zoom in and out of someone else's presentation, to see conference details (including the access code), and to see the list of attendees. Most of these functions are also accessible by depressing the correct hotkey shortcut.
Joining a conference was easy - I could join by clicking on the link in an invitation which automatically started the application.
WebEx for BlackBerry doesn't currently support Voice over IP to join the audio portion of the conference, but the application will automatically try to join the call using the device's cell phone. Because BlackBerrys support multitasking, the process of joining the call was a little more seamless than with the iPhone version.
During one of my test meetings using the BlackBerry, I received an "Uncaught exception" error message while trying to join the audio conference. While the call completed successfully and remote parties could hear me talking, I could only hear a continuous beep that sounded as if someone was constantly depressing the dial pad. The beep didn't stop until I hung up the call and exited WebEx completely.
WebEx for BlackBerry users can also easily chat with other session attendees, either as a broadcast to the group or individually.