Although Adobe is a household name when it comes to computer software, it hasn't made serious inroads in the world of videoconferencing services, despite being on the ninth version of Adobe Connect, its flagship Web conferencing system. In this world, Webex and Citrix remain synonymous with online video communication, education, and training.
Today Adobe is rolling out some impressive upgrades that it hopes will increase its competitiveness in this space, with the release of Adobe Connect 9.1.
Adobe senior product marketing manager Rocky Mitarai gave me a personal demo of the new version of the service and it's looking good. The focus of the system is on "going above and beyond basic screen sharing," says Mitarai, "with a particular eye on things like training and webinars," which require more sophisticated videoconferencing environments.
Adobe Connect is optimized for mobile clients, and this is one of the key areas in which Connect is getting an upgrade in version 9.1. Now even more of the service's desktop features are available on mobile platforms, including the ability to stream recordings across any mobile device. (Formerly, pre-recorded streams were only viewable on desktop clients.) The new version also offers support for multipoint videoconferencing with two live and unlimited paused webcams. Mobile platforms can also now be branded with a customized background (like your company logo), and more advanced features like interactive quizzes are now supported on mobile devices, too.
Another major feature of the 9.1 update is an enhancement to tools that let you save and re-stream live recordings. Existing tools (both on Adobe Connect and other platforms) to do this, says Mitarai, are difficult and cumbersome. Adobe Connect 9.1 now lets you record any videoconference, host and stream it from the cloud, and post it online just about anywhere, including Youtube. Recordings can be edited (and things like the chat box and attendee list can be removed) before the video is finalized and stored in the cloud. Video conversion costs extra, and this is charged as a service on a per-minute of video converted basis.
Other enhancements are also coming to expand Adobe Connect's ease of use and increase user productivity. Widescreen webcams are now supported (the user can toggle between a 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio), and the active speaker's name is now placed as a caption at the bottom of the window in which he can be seen talking.
One thing remaining the same is Connect's unique feature of creating meetings with a persistent URL that remains static for future meetings. This way, users needn't be re-invited to recurring meetings every week. They can bookmark one URL and use it in perpetuity. Materials uploaded to the meeting space--like slide decks or other supporting files--are retained for future use, as well, saving users time and centralizing storage. Adobe Connect is also distinguished from most other Web conference platforms by letting attendees very quickly jump into a meeting. For most, a single click is all it takes, with no additional client download required (aside from Flash, upon which Connect is built).
Aside from charges for video conversion, pricing isn't changing. Adobe Connect is sold per named user or host, by simultaneous users, or per minute. The named host model runs $4,200 per month for 100 hosts.