ooVoo Releases Version 2.2, with Business Features

ooVoo has released a new version for Windows with a number of improvements, and a new package aimed at businesses, especially small businesses trying to improve communication and control costs. They have also changed their existing package pricing and features for consumer plans.

ooVoo has released a new version for Windows with a number of improvements, and a new package aimed at businesses, especially small businesses trying to improve communication and control costs. They have also changed their existing package pricing and features for consumer plans. Check their Plan Overview for a complete list of features and prices.

The business plan includes up to 6-way video conferencing (Skype is still blundering along with only one-to-one video and mumbling about multi-party video being developed), and removes all advertisements from the display of all participants in a call. It does high resolution video when the equipment and connection are capable of it (no ridiculous list of "anointed" cameras, as Skype has), it has built-in call recording (not a clumsy add-on as in Skype), desktop sharing with all call participants, and video effects. (Personally, I have trouble imagining a business call where video effects would be useful or appropriate, but maybe that's just me.) Best of all, in my opinion, it includes priority customer service, and I can tell you from personal experience, their customer service people are top-notch, they respond quickly and they are very knowledgeable. Compare that to Skype, where "support" consists of sending a plea to a web page which offers nothing better than FOUR DAYS response time, and in fact is much, much worse than that, and whatever responses one might eventually get are invariably so irrelevant and banal as to be completely useless.

To summarize the Business offering, I think ooVoo is going in the right direction because of two critical points. First, a lot of businesses need multi-party video, simple one-to-one is not good enough for work group / team meetings, discussions with customers and suppliers, and the like. Second, a business that is going to stake a good part of its activity and reputation on video calls needs to know that support is available when they need it.

For consumers, the plans have been reorganized. The basic "free" plan remains, with two-way video, text chat and file transfer. Multi-party video has been moved entirely into paid plans, broken into steps for 3-, 4- and 6-way video. The free plan only includes standard resolution video, while all of the paid plans include high resolution video when possible. If you object to the ads that run at the bottom of the video window, you can purchase the "no-ads" option to get rid of them.

Also new with this release is a wonderfully innovative "pay per use" plan for their premium calling features. This works essentially the same as the paid call-out feature has previously. You purchase credits, and then when you want to use a premium feature that is not in your plan, such as multi-party audio or video calls, you pay for it by the minute from your credits. It extends across all of their plans, including the free service; so for example if I am using their free service, and I am in a video chat with one of my brothers, and we decide to add one or both of my other brothers to the call, I pay 10 cents a minute for each one that we add. The call-out feature has finally added a few countries other than the U.S. and Canada; specifically Germany, Italy, the U.K. and Israel. Rates are very competitive with other services for landline calls, but as usual be careful about calling mobile numbers, the cost is much higher. The customer service issue is important here as well. If you have a problem or question about your account or your credits, ooVoo has competent customer support staff who will respond promptly and help you solve your problem - rather than treating you like Skype does, and either ignoring your request, replying that whatever happened was your own fault, or sending you instructions on how to configure your audio.

When you download ooVoo and open a new account, you get free use of all of their premium features for 30 days. There is no better way to decide whether it is right for you than to try it. I have been encouraging my family and friends to try ooVoo for quite a long time now, and I've never had a single one come back and say they were not satisfied with it.

jw 28/7/2009

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