Adobe Connect: digital meeting rooms

Had a demonstration session from Adobe the other day. It was making its Connect Pro strut itself with a whole bunch of us from Freeform Dynamics. Very impressive it was too.

What is it? Another web conferencing service. Or you can buy it for in-house installation. We were using the hosted service. It uses the idea of meeting rooms to which different groups of people belong and in which various resources are shared.

You can share your whole computer screen or, if you have two, choose which to share. Or you can share a window or an application. Control can be passed back and forth between participants, depending on their authority level. They can be Hosts, Presenters or Participants. A chat window allows you to type little messages to each other IM-style. You can also hold your hand up to attract the host’s attention.

You can also share a variety of documents – PowerPoint, JPEG, Flash and Flash Video, MP3 and Zip. Mostly people use PowerPoint. Connect crushes large files to a fraction of their original size when saving them to the room. This makes for rapid playback, especially useful for complex graphics or video.

Whiteboarding is possible – this is a markup system using highlighters and drawing tools. If you want to make a permanent copy of the markup, you have to print it to an Acrobat (pdf) file or to paper. Shame you can’t just save it. Oh well.

Colour depth can be varied. Some people are happy with 256 colours, others want millions. For radiological scans, for example, the highest possible resolution would be required. It would, of course take longer to transmit.

When you return to a room, it’s exactly as you left it, a bit like a real room. Unless, of course, someone with the necessary authority has been in and changed it. But you’d never get the equivalent of a cleaner walking in and throwing precious files in the bin.

Adobe has 3000 customers using the service and they’re racking up something like 47 million minutes a month at the moment. Although it can use the computer for voice communications (VoIP), our session was run over the telephone, using local call numbers. This was apparently to keep the call quality up. VoIP tends to be used when the sessions are less interactive, more one way, as in a broadcast webinar. (You may remember that Citrix Online had some pretty decent VoIP in its GoToMeeting service, so it’s not impossible.)

You might want to take a look at this page to see the options available. I tried to get some sense out of Adobe on pricing. It was late in the afternoon for the local office and, despite having various people running around, I was unable to come up with any numbers.

Let’s hope it adds something in the comments below before too long.

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