Partners Aim to Make Conferencing Cheap and Simple

 
 
By Paula Musich  |  Posted 2007-10-31
 
 
 
A pair of small conferencing and collaboration companies hope to be heard above the din in this crowded space by combining their respective strengths and targeting small and midsize businesses.

On Nov. 5, audio conferencing service pioneer FreeConference will launch its partnership with visual collaboration platform provider Vyew. The two vendors integrated their respective offerings to allow conference participants to share and annotate a range of document types.

Officials of the two companies believe they have created the first free integrated Web conferencing and visual collaboration service. They each offer services that integrate the others technology.

FreeConference for its part is offering the new SharePlus service with desktop sharing based on Vyews visual collaboration platform. It allows conference participants to share documents and applications in real time using a single mouse click.

During a session, Vyew online collaboration subscribers can click on a FreeConference call button to access FreeConference.coms reservationless audio conferencing service.

To set themselves apart from larger conferencing vendors, the pair sought to make the integrated audio conferencing and visual collaboration service "dead simple" to use, said Alex Cory, CEO of FreeConference in Hollywood, Calif.

"You dont have to preload anything, You can do desktop sharing, but the individual with the content controls it. And you can share all kinds of things," he said.

That contrasts with high-end Web conferencing offerings from vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, whose on-premises offerings are more complex.

"There are a ton of bells and whistles in Web conferencing products. It becomes incredibly confusing for users. There is a minority of users who need multimedia presentations," said Cory.

Click here to read more about IBMs Web conferencing services play.

And while those vendors are now targeting SMBs, their offerings are too costly, according to Robert Mahowald, program director for collaborative computing at IDC in Framingham, Mass.

"Companies like Vyew, FreeConference and other small players that offer ease of use and rather limited functionality stand a better chance of cleaning up in those [SMB] markets, especially because they are offering services rather than products," he said.

Compared to closer, service-based competitors such as Citrixs GoToMeeting, the integrated services from Vyew and FreeConference dont limit the number of users who can access the desktop sharing program, Cory added. "GoToMeeting has a per-seat limit. With us the number of people on the desktop sharing program is the same number that are on the audio call," he said.

Vyew allows subscribers to share and annotate a range of files, including PowerPoint, Word, Excel, JPEG, MP3 and others, as well as share screen captures and whiteboards.

It is unique in allowing users to collaborate both synchronously as well as asynchronously, according to Vyew CEO Henry Hon, in Berkeley, Calif. "Synchronous is real time like Webex and GoToMeeting, and asynchronous is like a wiki. People can come in at any time to do their work and browse.

"Users can put up coursework, students can come in any time to do work and later sync up," said Hon. "Everything is in a persistent state. Everything you put in this environment—its all there if you leave and come back. Once it is marked up, it can stay there."

The integrated services are available now from both Vyew and FreeConference.

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