TeamViewer on the iPad

We were surprised at the range of functionalities TeamViewer offers users on an iPad.

On your iPad you can chat, alter the size of the screen you are viewing, and have full mouse and keyboard control. You can even decide on your own which screen you want to view if the host e.g. has a second, hidden screen. One member of our testing crew wasn’t too happy about that specific feature as it turned out…
This points towards the restrictions of the tool: You only have all these functionalities if you participate in a meeting with a Mac user. And you can only have meetings one-on-one as soon as an iPad user is participating. Also, we could find no way for the host to restrict the iPad user’s access.

TeamViewer advanced keyboard functionality on iPad

TeamViewer advanced keyboard functionality on iPad

So really, it’s more of a remote access to a Mac – comparable with Citrix’ GoToMy PC –  than a meeting, since you can do everything from your iPad. You can even shut down the host’s Mac if he doesn’t watch the iPad user every second of the ‘meeting’.

FastViewer on the iPad

On the iPad, FastViewer falls into the category ‘look, don’t touch’. According to the vendor, a meeting host should be able to transfer mouse and keyboard control to participants using an iPad, but in our tests we were not able to verify this.

FastViewer status bar on iPad

FastViewer status bar on iPad

Apart from this FastViewer performs nicely. You can chat – not privately – and can check out the list of attendees any time. We liked the status bar at the bottom of the screen. If somebody sends a chat message during a presentation you can easily switch to the chat window and then back again.

Online meetings for the visually impaired

We talk about usability a lot, but what if you have trouble seeing what’s on the screen or can’t see it at all? Some vendors state that their solutions offer optimized usability for the visually impaired. That is all good and nice, but before verifying those claims, we took a step back to have a look at the big picture.

First of all we checked for how many potential users this issue poses a difficulty. According to USA today and the AFB (American Foundation for the Blind) there are 10 million visually impaired people living in the US, 1.3 million of whom are legally blind. Within that group you can further discern those who are most likely to ever use a web conferencing solution, i.e. the 2-3 million people who are working age. That makes 0,7% of the total US population.

Naturally, no matter how small that group is, they may not be disregarded. Accessibility policies vary from country to country, but most countries – including EU-countries – have adopted standards in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to establish a minimum level of accessibility.

Our testing team sees two options of making an online meeting accessible to the visually impaired. One option are screen readers or magnification devices. Regarding the screen readers we are not too sure how vendors would implement them, considering that during an online meeting screens are shared, and the reader would thus have to be able to recognize the content on another attendee’s desktop. The user interface could also be optimized as far as font and button size is concerned, or the arrangement of items together with colors.

So there really are many questions attached to this topic. It would be interesting for us to hear about experiences and usage scenarios. So if you have any info for us please let us know, since we are anxious to learn more on this topic.

Web conferencing vs. virtual classroom solutions

This morning, a Canadian visitor of our test portal made us aware of a gap in our evaluation of online meeting solutions:

I noticed online training in your Applications sidebar, but you evaluated the WebEx Meeting Centre. WebEx Training Centre provides enhanced functionality specifically designed for training. Have you evaluated this product against competitors in that field?

Since webconferencing-test.com is a non-profit initiative we only have limited time to spend on reviewing different solutions. Unfortunately this means that we are not able to add a new branch to our website by testing special-purpose online meeting solutions for classroom-like online trainings. We’ve got our hands full with keeping our ranking up-to-date and comprehensive as is.

But of course we do have something to say on the topic:

The biggest challenge to evaluating web conferencing solutions tailored to classroom, training, and online exam requirements is the intransparency of this niche market. This market includes vendors like WebEx (Training Centre) and Citrix Online with GoToTraining, who extended their underlying web conferencing technology to serve online training purposes. Others like Saba and Elluminate provide a blended web conferencing / eLearning solution – and there are dozens of vendors delivering solutions dedicated solely to virtual classroom scenarios, like Learning Management Systems (LMS), Skytap, eLecta and GC Learning Services.