Screen and voice recording/publishing for free

Any company that makes life easy for its customers gets my vote. And one company that tries hard to achieve this is Citrix Online. It is driven by a desire to simplify the previously complex. It also likes to undercut the prices of its major competitors.

Right now it has a free service in beta, called GoView which lets anyone create a screencast (voice and screen recording). Since the most popular screencast programs are desktop products, its traditional pricing model – a monthly fee – must have presented a bit of a challenge. So its solution was to go for an ad'-supported model. At the moment all the advertisements are for the company's other services and they don't in any way interfere with your own screencast creations.

True, it lacks the sophistication of Techsmith's Camtasia or Blueberry Software's FlashBack products, for example, but this is largely its point. It's good enough for the majority of existing and potential screencasters. A few clicks and your movie ends up online and you have a URL to share. If you prefer the extra control a desktop application gives you, you might want to check out Techsmith's Jing – a mini-Camtasia and screen capture program or FlashBack Express. Both are free, although the licence terms for Express appear to contradict this.

Returning to the GoView service, once the desktop element is downloaded, a couple of clicks start a three second countdown. Anything you then do on the screen or speak into the microphone gets streamed to the Citrix Online server. When finished, you can edit out the bad bits of the end result, add captions if you want, then share the URL with others. As Aleksandr in would say, "Seemplz."

GoView is currently in beta and some simple improvements could be made, such as being able to select an area of the screen for recording, rather than the whole screen. But the whole point of a public beta is that the developers get tons of feedback like this quickly and more or less for free. I, and many others, have probably spent hours buggering about with the software and the service. This gives the company a fairly massive free testing resource. The other point of a beta approach is that the service provider is more or less forgiven for flaws. It's how Twitter got so successful. Its 'fail whale' almost became a friend in the early days of the service. I had issues with sound and screen size on Vista at first, but it worked a charm on XP. Once underway, GoView seemed pretty robust.

I think the key to the Citrix approach, and that of many other disrupters, is that it realises that part the world needs sophisticated software and services, but a much larger chunk actually craves a simpler life and lower costs. Professional screencasters will still want 'proper' products which let them massage and publish the outputs in various ways. But regular end users who just want to just grab what they're doing on the screen, twiddle with it a bit, then send it off will be perfectly happy with a simple service which automatically stores the recording online and gives the user a URL which they can share via email, blogs, tweets or whatever. Jing, by the way, comes awfully close in this respect.

GoView is just one of Citrix Online's recent crop of disruptive services. It is taking a pop at the lucrative online education market with a new GoToTraining service. Its fairly new HiDefConferencing offers voice
conferencing which can mix up to 500 PSTN and IP participants together. As with its GoToMeeting and other GoTo products, the terms for both services is based on unlimited usage per licence. This is the computing equivalent of one of those 'all you can eat' buffet lunches so beloved of certain ethnic restaurants.

While I don't care much for concentrating on single companies, it has to be said that Citrix Online is a bit of a one-off. It's a successful business which relies on simplicity and an absence of financial surprises for its customers. The first appeals to end users and the second to everyone.

Not a bad recipe at all.

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