Mac users are being neglected by web conferencing vendors

There has been a large hype about web conferencing solutions for mobile devices for the last couple of months. And rightfully so. The mobile market – with the iPhone and iPad as forerunners – is growing at an incredible rate so it is mandatory that vendors of online collaboration tools make their solutions available to this growing customer segment.

Now this segment has been rudimentarily covered by the vendors, and the mobile applications – which we have tested extensively – make it possible for attendees on the run to experience an online meeting with the limitations their mobile devices set. So what is the next trend now? HD-video!

All well and good, but with all these new developments there is one thing that vendors keep disregarding. Of course it is nice to have new and flashy features. However, if you only make these available to one set of users and give the rest of us only basic functionalities, something is amiss.

You might have guessed it: We are speaking of the divide between Windows users and Mac users. What web conferencing vendors tend to disregard is that the online meeting market is different from all other software markets in one fundamental aspect: the rule that you need to make sure to cover the requirements of the vast majority (Windows users) before everything else does not apply. And why not? Simply because even though the Mac OS X user group is still small in comparison you do not know with which device an attendee will log into the meeting.

Even if only one attendee logs into the meeting with his Mac and the solution you are using does not support that, you have a problem. Fortunately, the better ranked tools in our comparison all offer some degree of Mac compatibility, which allows for attendance and collaboration in varying degrees. But even GoToMeeting clearly favors Windows users, and hasn’t developed their solution for Mac OS X further in the last years.

In our tool reviews we point at compatibility of the solutions with common Operating Systems. We will be keeping a close look at this issue and if a tool doesn’t show any promise of improving the service for Mac users, we will consider deducting points from the overall score. And no, that is not too harsh. This is a major factor in user friendliness, since a web conferencing host should not have to worry about whether everyone is able to follow him.

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.

Using a smart phone for web conferencing isn’t all that smart

Well, in this case size does matter! We had some fun when testing web conferencing solutions on an iPhone and were impressed by the results – when we could actually see them.

Seriously, the quality of displayed documents and presentations is amazing if you look at a small part of the displayed text. To read the text in a regular view you need more than just standard eyesight. Data is transferred quickly to the phone so that you can follow what is being shown.

But back to the size-issue. Here’s an example of what we were looking at in our tests:

BeamYourScreen on iPhone

BeamYourScreen on an iPhone

Seeing that you do need a fairly large screen, and having tested all the software on regular computers already, we selflessly decided to buy ourselves an iPad to have yet another perspective on online collaboration on the run. We will keep you updated on those tests.

Oh, by the way, some vendors of online meeting tools offer mobile versions not only for iPhone but for Android, BlackBerry, and other smart phones as well.