Perhaps even less inspiring than a Ben Affleck movie is a pitch from a PR person wanting me to "check out this awesome new audio and video conferencing service." Admittedly, I wasn't at all excited to investigate iMeet any further until I read one particular passage in the initial introduction to me: iMeet lets up to 15 people meet face-to-face online from anywhere in the world using their desktop, tablet or smartphone. iMeet is one tool for all your audio, web and video meetings, and it has received several leading industry awards, including the Silver award for New Product Innovation by the internationally renowned 2012 Edison Awards. I still wasn't convinced to have a look but I was intrigued. If nothing else, it was worth a look so that I could scoff at the attempt to woo me with the prospect of (yawn) a closer inspection of something I didn't care about at all. I'm a Skype user, after all. It isn't perfect but I've been with it for a while.
However, to my surprise, iMeet is really a superb tool and deserves a look. And, I'm glad I did. In fact, you're going to be blessed/graced/cursed with watching some videos that I produce with this incredible tool in this column and in my Consumerization column.
iMeet 2.0 release highlights include:
Auto-Connect: iMeet hosts can instantly join the conversation with this new feature that automatically calls their computer or mobile device when they enter an iMeet meeting.
Screen Share: iMeet hosts can share their screen in high resolution, with no downloads for meeting guests. Mobile guests can view screen share from an iPad® with the iMeet HD app.
Advanced Mobile Meeting Apps: The iMeet HD app for the iPad now includes two-way video streaming, full host controls, faster connect times and cloud file sharing. The iMeet Mobile app for the iPhone® now includes larger profile images, full host controls and cloud file sharing.
HD Quality Video: iMeet now leverages the most technically advanced H.264 video encoding for HD quality video without consuming huge amounts of network bandwidth.
Spotlight Cube: iMeet users can click on anyone’s cube to enlarge it up to four-times bigger, creating a video conferencing room experience right on the desktop.
Cloud Controls: iMeet’s new, easy-to-use admin console lets businesses centrally manage, provision and customize large groups of iMeet accounts across the enterprise.
If you're like me, I've been disapointed with video conferencing tools over the years. It seems like if I didn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on video hardware and software that I just couldn't produce good talkback interview video. Well, now I can and I can do it cheaply--for about $20 a month. That's less than my Premium BlogTalkRadio* subscription cost me and it was audio only.
Now, there's no way, in a static article or in a podcast that I can adequately show you what iMeet can do. It's hard to describe but I'll try.
First, iMeet is easy to use. Sean O'Brien, EVP Strategy & Communications gave me a demonstration of the meeting software during our interview as I interviewed him. We conducted the entire interview via iMeet. I didn't have video hooked up or you could have seen the demo that I got during the interview. The next best thing is to have your own demo. Saving that, you can view a video that iMeet created to give you a quick overview.
Second, it does things that I've never seen any other video conferencing software do, such as display custom, dynamic backgrounds as you're talking. Trust me, you have to see it to believe it. You can share files, your desktop and carry on a real time video conferencing over the web as if you had spent thousands or tens of thousands on high-end equipment. And, yet, it works with your built-in laptop camera. Sure, it works with other cameras too but, I'm just saying.
Third, there's no choppy and weird audio/video syncing problems with iMeet. Sean's video was absolutely smooth and flawless, just like watching a YouTube video on my desktop. This is one point that I can't make clear enough. His technology is so advanced that you can have up to 15 simultaneous video conversations in your meeting room. I made some offhanded reference to an old TV show named, Max Headroom, where Max's video and audio feed would often glitch, repeat and stammer. But, that was part of the mystique of the show. Watch an episode or two. Back then it was kind of cool. Nowadays, it will get on your nerves after a few minutes.
Finally, iMeet is surprisingly inexpensive. For just under $20 per month, you can enjoy the service for yourself. The full price list gives you an overview of the different plans and what each offers you.
There's also a new feature coming within the next 90 days for those of you who still aren't convinced: Downloadable video. That's right. You don't have to record your own video, further bogging down your system with another heavy application. Their service will provide you a copy of your meeting as part of the service.
One of the best things about iMeet is the fact that it works on any device without any special software download. This means that you can conduct meetings from anywhere and on any operating system or device that has Internet access. And, you can use audio, video or both.
I like the Spotlight feature that allows you to "blow up" a particular user's video session allowing you to view full 1080p video from that user.
See Figure 1.
If you compare iMeet to Skype, which I currently use for my interviews and podcasts, Skype's video is choppy. My fellow ZDNetizens, Scott Raymond and Jason Perlow, and I setup a Skype video conference one evening to check out the possibilities. It worked but not so well. It left a lot to be desired actually.
We really wanted and needed an iMeet experience. If we were to repeat the video conferencing idea, I would use iMeet.
One last thing. To connect to a live meeting requires nothing more than a browser. No remembering a conference phone number. No conference code. No fumbling around with dialing at all. Click on the simple link that someone provides you, have the iMeet service call your phone and presto, you're in the conference. Basically, two clicks and you're in. You never have to be late for another conference, no matter where you are--even if you're stuck in traffic on your way to the meeting.
Seriously. The best way to see what iMeet has to offer you is to take a look for yourself. I, personally, am impressed. And, that's not easy to do. As I said earlier, I didn't want to look but am glad that I did. I think I must have sounded like a comic book freak watching The Avengers for the first time with the number of "Wows" I gave it.
Who knew that someone could take something as nap-inducing as audio and video conferencing software and make it geeky-cool. iMeet has succeeded where many other have failed. I'm thinking that if I could get phone recordings off of the service (and I forgot to ask) that I might dump Skype forever.
*I love BlogTalkRadio and it's almost perfect for audio only podcasting.