Blue Jeans Brings Chat, Android Support to Video Conferencing Solution

The company, which offers a cloud-based product, also is partnering with InterCall to bring video to its audio service.

Blue Jeans Network is expanding the capabilities of its cloud-based video conferencing solution with new features, a new partnership and expanded mobile support.

Included in the new offerings is a built-in chat capability, giving users another way to communicate with others on the video call and enabling them to send reminders and conduct sidebar conversations, according to company officials. In addition, Blue Jeans is including a screen-sharing feature that enables presenters to see other participants in the meeting while simultaneously presenting content from their desktop. This enables presenters to gauge how well their presentation and content are being received by the audience.

Blue Jeans also is offering its video conferencing solution to users of Android-based tablets and smartphones via an app in the Google Play store. The offering comes as a growing number of video conferences include at least one mobile device, company officials said. Blue Jeans estimated that almost a third of all the meetings done via its cloud solution involve at least one mobile device.

The rollout of the Blue Jeans for Android 1.0 app, announced Nov. 13, will set the stage for a range of new Android-based capabilities coming in the future, Tedd Fox, senior product manager for mobile applications at Blue Jeans, said in a post on the company blog.

The company already offers an iOS app for Apple iPhones and iPads. Fox noted that Blue Jeans is upgrading its Apple app with Version 1.7, which includes chat functionality and improvements in the interface and usability.

In addition, InterCall, an audio and conferencing service provider, will integrate Blue Jeans' video technology into its InterCall Reservationless-Plus audio conferencing service. The partnership between the vendors will create a more complete collaboration platform, according to Blue Jeans officials.

The enhancements and InterCall partnership come two months after Blue Jeans announced it had raised another $50 million in financing, essentially doubling what it had already raised during its first four years.

The company has more than 2,000 businesses and 3 million participants, all of whom are using more than 100 million minutes every year, according to Blue Jeans officials. They have argued that their cloud-based solution brings video conferencing capabilities to organizations that in the past have been left out because of cost or IT expertise.

"From the beginning, we focused on making video collaboration about the meeting participant," Blue Jeans co-founder and CEO Krish Ramakrishnan said when the company announced the funding. "Up until now, traditional methods have been elitist, complex and leave the participant at the mercy of the physical location of the device."

Businesses are increasingly turning to video conferencing, according to a Blue Jeans study. In a survey conducted by market research firm, 94 percent of respondents said face-to-face communications improve business relationships, and that 91 percent have never seen many of the people they work with each day.

Seventy-one percent said they'd lost a deal because there had been no face-to-face interaction, 94 percent said they are at least somewhat surprised by an associate's appearance after speaking with them on the phone, 60 percent regularly misread the tone or message in an email or phone conversation, and 40 percent had mistaken a person's gender before they'd seen them.

Fifty-four percent said video conferencing is the best alternative to an in-person meeting, while 23 percent said a phone call was the best option and 14 percent said email. Eight percent viewed Web conferencing as the best alternative.

Video communication also keeps people more focused in a meeting. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they do other things on audio calls, with 72 percent saying they've talked to other colleagues; 69 percent saying they've gone onto Facebook, tweeted or made other calls; and 6 percent said they've taken a nap.