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Posted by Mark Hine at 6:24PM   |  Add a comment

As web collaboration hits the mainstream, it can be a bit daunting sorting out the various options that are available. A free product that is worth considering is Adobe's ConnectNow.  We recently demoed Adobe's ConnectNow product before a 'live studio audience'. Though our exploration is in its infancy, we can reflect on our trials and tribulations to date and give you a feel for what we've experienced.

Briefly, ConnectNow is an online collaborative suite which works with or without audio and video. It includes the equivalent of a shared white board, chat, screen sharing, file sharing and includes the ability to phone conference in place of shared streaming audio. The vision is to create an enhanced video conference where collaboration is the centerpiece. Sharing, if you will.

The whiteboard, chat and file sharing work flawlessly. Video and audio are slightly more challenging as they are the most bandwidth intensive tasks. We connected three parties and eventually were able to send and receive audio. The video seemed to be a bit more reliable in our tests, though the quality is as expected - low. It goes without saying that an audio only conference would probably have been less demanding but having a face to put with the data is a different experience.

As we reviewed our results one notion became clear: Is this the right tool for the job? That question is relevant for many technologic tools. Do we need video? Do we need audio? How important is interactivity on a visual level. All worthy of consideration. One of the advantages of ConnectNow is that it's inherently cross-platform. We connected two Macs and a PC to our conference with little difficulty. The interface is Flash based so downloading the latest version of Flash Player is a requirement. The application is bandwidth intensive. Access to high bandwidth is a must. Further trials will include off campus tests.

Adobe also offers Acrobat Connect Pro, which is a paid service, ostensibly providing a higher quality experience. To give the free version a try, connect to: www.acrobat.com. We'll have more to come as we continue to evaluate on-line collaborative tools.


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