Plantronics InstantMeeting Fails to Make Conference Calls Easy
Users who typically attend internal meetings hosted via providers known to work with InstantMeeting will probably like the app. But people like me who almost exclusively attend meetings initiated outside the company--using here-to-fore unknown and unpredictable conferencing services--will find InstantMeeting more of a hassle than a boon to productivity and timely attendance.
InstantMeeting is currently available for the BlackBerry and Android mobile operating systems, while an iOS version for iPhone/iPad is expected soon. A licensed version providing unlimited calls available for $2.99 and a free trial version good for connecting a maximum of 20 conference calls are both available from each of the supported platform's respective app marketplaces (BlackBerry App World and the Android Market).
I tested the free version of the BlackBerry iteration on my BlackBerry Bold 9700 which was running the most up-to-date firmware available from T-Mobile (126.96.36.1994).
The application theoretically makes it bonehead simple to connect to conference calls, scouring the device calendar for meetings scheduled through recognized conferencing providers, ferreting out the dial-in phone numbers, meeting ID numbers, and meeting passwords embedded within the invitation.
When the meeting time rolls around, InstantMeeting delivers an on-screen pop-up asking whether I'd like to connect to the conference, or I could instead enter the InstantMeeting app to see my list of all upcoming meetings and connect from there. Either way, InstantMeeting will then dial the conference number, automatically enter the appropriate hotkeys for the recognized provider, and input the meeting ID number, thereby connecting to the conference with a single press of a button. And in case the call gets dropped midway through, InstantMeeting makes it easy to reconnect.
At least that is the way it is supposed to work, but my tests showed things were often more complicated, particular when unknown providers or unsupported versions of supposedly supported providers are used to host the conference. For instance, posts in Plantronics' InstantMeeting forum declared WebEx and Microsoft LiveMeeting to be among the supported conference providers, yet InstantMeeting could not find all the relevant data to complete the connection when I used either of those services.
InstantMeeting will warn the user when the app detects it is missing information for any meetings, putting a little red exclamation point next to the meeting when looking at the app or popping a screen informing the user of errors. This leaves it to the user to find the missing data from the original calendar entry or e-mail and copy that data into InstantMeeting.
Most commonly, when I received an error notification, InstantMeeting could identify the call-in number, but failed to identify the meeting ID. The user could still attempt to place the call with detected errors, but the dial process would fail.
I suspect the problem may have to do with versions of conferencing service. I performed the bulk of my tests using the beta of WebEx Meet, for which I have a trial subscription, and the LiveMeeting I tried to attend via InstantMeeting was likely using a very current version as Microsoft was the other participant. But often, users can't control what conference provider will be used and what version is in use, which leaves InstantMeeting in a sticky place, requiring the very user interaction it is meant to reduce the need for.
InstantMeeting is a neat app, with some limited potential. But since it frequently can't solve the very problem it was designed to address, it makes it hard to recommend the product at this time.