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Entries in meetings (1)

Thursday
Jun022011

Hosting a Meeting from Your iPad - A Review of Some Meeting Apps

Lawyers have lots of meetings.  So you'd think that the iPad would make an ideal tool for hosting and attending meetings.  And you'd be mostly right.  Mostly.

There are a lot of apps that allow you to attend a meeting from your iPad.  Unfortunately, when it comes to actually hosting a meeting from your iPad, the apps I've reviewed still have a ways to go, in various ways. I've taken a look at four meeting apps, and have some brief remarks about all of them, from the least iPad-friendly to the most.  For purposes of this discussion, what makes a meeting app iPad-friendly is the ability to both join and host a meeting, and associated functionality with both.

GoToMeeting (Free, download in iTunes) - GoToMeeting is certainly one of the biggest online meeting providers.  However, its iPad app has no hosting capability.  You can join the meeting and view what the Host is sharing on-screen, but that's about it.  The audio for the meeting is available via your iPad, or by calling the conference line provided.  Grade:  C-

WebEx (Free, download in iTunes) - another giant in the online meeting space, the WebEx app is only marginally better than the GoToMeeting app.  It does allow users to create and start meetings on the iPad - it's pretty easy to log in to your account, create a meeting, and start it on your device. However, once the meeting is started ou cannot actually share information with meeting attendees on the device. You can view attendees, and share video with other attendees, but that's about it.  Of course, viewing meeting content on the device is great, but without the ability to interact with the meeting host, it's more of a one-way conversation.  Grade:  C

Adobe Connect (Free, download in iTunes) - I'm,a big fan of Adobe Connect, even though they provide free meetings for only up to 3 people.  A couple of weeks ago they released this iPad-compatible app, but I have to admit that I can't get it to work.  Whenever I try to login to a meeting, I et a "Network Error" message that won't go away.  I tried to find an answer in the user forums, and found that others have been having the same problem - but no one is answer their questions there.  If any Adobe folks read this, can you please respond in the comments on how to fix the Network Error issue? In any event, even if I could get in, I'd have the same inability to drive a meeting as I would in GoToMeeting and WebEx - that capability just doesn't exist yet.  So as much as I like the Adobe Connectd web product, for now the app grade has to be Incomplete.

Fuze Meeting (Free, download in iTunes) comes the closet of the apps I've reviewed to being a complete meeting experience on the iPad.  When you start it up, you are given the option to Start a New Meeting, Join a Meeting, or view your list of meetings.  When you start a new meeting, it instantly starts - a box pops up asking you whether you want to join the conference call from your iPad, or by having the Fuze service call you.  

When you start your meeting, you are given a couple of options.  The first is to Add Content - from the app you can add content from either your Photo Roll or from your Fuze Online Library.  To make sure content is in the Online Library, you'll have to upload it from the computer-based version of Fuze. (Box.net connects with Fuze, but I don't think you can upload content direct from there into your iPad meeting).  

Inviting Attendees is a snap - just press the Invite Attendees button on the home page, or click the People icon once you are in the meeting.  Then just select email addresses from your contact list, or type in a new address and add it.  Your attendees will be able to join by clicking on the link in the email.

So far, so good.  But here's where Fuze starts to let me down.  You can pull up a document on your screen to view it with your attendees, but you don't have the ability to annotate the document; to do that, you'll have to give control to one of your Web viewers, or access the Fuze meeting via the web yourself.  To do this, you'll need to make someone else either the presenter or annotator within the iPad app.

Annotators can mark up a document in any number of ways - freeform drawing, arrows, text annotations, and squares, circles and triangles.  Any annotations can be deleted by using the handy eraser tool. If you upload a multi-page file - PDF, Word, or PowerPoint document - you can move through the document from page to page from the iPad app.

While the meeting is going on, attendees can chat with each other via the handy chat feature, which allows you to chat with everyone or just particular attendees.

Of the tools I've reviewed so far, Fuze is clearly the front-runner.  If only I had the ability to annotate documents on the iPad, I'd find it nearly a complete tool.  As it is, I have to give this app a solid B+. Check back for updates on meeting apps as new tools become available.