Online meetings and smart phones – iPhone currently leads the field in the race to compatibility

A couple of week ago we stated that we weren’t all that convinced of the mix of online meetings and smart phones. Our main objection was the small size of the devices’ displays. Nevertheless, we have to keep an open mind and objectively evaluate the current solutions. So we checked out the compatibility of all the web conferencing solutions on our list with iPhone / iPod touch, Blackberry, and Android.

A lot of vendors have already released smart-phone-friendly versions of their software. Astonishingly, the leaders as far as compatibility is concerned are the solutions below the top 5! Among the top 5 only WebEx and RHUB can be used on an iPhone. RHUB as a browser based solution, WebEx with its own app.

The combination of “runs on iPhone and Blackberry” is most common and currently Intercall Unified Meeting, IBM Lotus Live Meeting, Fuze Meeting, PGi Netspoke, and AT&T Connect are able to deliver.

Next to compatibility of online meeting solutions with smart phones we checked the compatibility with Apple’s iPad. Taken together, 30 per cent of our tested solutions offer web conferencing on either smart phone or iPad, which is ok for starters. Developers are working on the issue around the clock and we will keep you updated on the latest news.

We will now take our iPad and scrutinize the performance of single solutions. Oh, and naturally we inserted the info on which tool is compatible with which device into our overall ranking.

Gartner and Forrester only look at the big players and disregard some of the strong performers

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned in a post that we would have a look at some tools that are featured in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant but not in our ranking, since those specific web conferencing solutions did not comply with our basic criteria of evaluation.

Gartner and also Forrester apply their own criteria when testing online conferencing solutions. But are they really valid? Take one of Forrester’s vendor select criteria: To be eligible for testing, a vendor must have an annual revenue of over $500 million. Now really, does it matter to a user of an online conferencing tool what kind of revenue the vendor makes? We don’t think so. The most important factor is that the solution performs well. Some small vendors outperform the big players on the market and a comprehensive study of web conferencing solutions has to acknowledge this.

Gartner approaches the web conferencing market in a way similar to Forrester. Gartner assesses the financial health of the provider and the placement of the web conferencing tool in question within the organization’s product portfolio. The marketing strategy of the vendor is also ranked high priority. These criteria lead to the result that AT&T Connect is ranked better than Intercall Unified Meeting. In our tests we have found that the latter easily outperforms AT&T’s online conferencing solution.

Performance is key. If a tool is user-friendly and offers all necessary functionalities, it doesn’t matter what kind of market power is behind it, as long as the vendor is able to provide customers with reliable service. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that a small vendor cannot do this just as well or even better than one of the big players.

You can check out our comprehensive study of the web conferencing market here.

Why do our results differ from Gartner’s?

With it’s Magic Quadrant for web conferencing Gartner offers a comprehensive study of the web conferencing market which includes a detailed evaluation of online collaboration tools. Now we have been approached with a justifiable question: Why do their results differ from ours?

The answer lies within another question: What are you looking for in a web conferencing solution? Which brings us to the criteria of evaluation. Gartner takes a very close look not only at the software itself but also includes the vendor in its evaluation. Overall viability of the vendor e.g. has high priority. Here Gartner assesses the financial health of the provider and the placement of the web conferencing tool in question within the organization’s product portfolio. The marketing strategy of the vendor is also ranked high priority.
This prioritization naturally favors the big players who have the high marketing budgets and are financially better situated than a small vendor who just introduced his 1.0 version to the market.

We have a different focus when analyzing and evaluating web conferencing solutions. The web conferencing solutions we evaluate should e.g. offer an approach different or complementary to what Gartner calls the on-premises-model. Users should not be required to install additional hardware or software to their IT-infrastructure to run an online collaboration solution. We give vendors a higher ranking if they enable you to run the software without great preparatory effort (SaaS – Software as a Service). This is important to us since we test with small to medium businesses in mind, who often cannot afford the costly and time consuming installation. You can find a detailed description of our testing approach and evaluation criteria here.

Gartner also features tools that are not included in our ranking. Most of these tools have been rejected by us previously because they did not comply with our basic requirements, e.g. offering a free test version and pricing information. We will definitely take another look at AT&T Connect, Intercall Unified Meeting, and PGi Netspoke to see if they can be included in our ranking now.

If you know of other tools that we have not tested so far and you feel fit all our criteria for evaluation please let us know. We will definitely have a look at the suggestions.

AT&T evaluation requested

We have been receiving requests to evaluate AT&T’s web conferencing solution. Our comparison of web conferencing tools focuses on solutions for smaller and medium-sized companies and the self-employed, and AT&T doesn’t fit this profile with it’s enterprise solution (q.v. entry below „Manipeer's software vzRoom will not be rated” for further preconditions to evaluation).