Pleased to iMeet you: a Cloud-based Audio and Video Conferencing Service

Pleased to iMeet you: a Cloud-based Audio and Video Conferencing Service

Summary: What makes iMeet so different than other audio and video conferencing services? This one really works and works the way you want it to.

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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.

Figure1
Figure 1: iMeet Spotlight Feature

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.

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Mobility

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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19 comments
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  • Did you run this by David Gewirtz and his video conferencing setup @DIY

    I have watched Skype video conferencing examples on ZDNet by fellow ZDNet bloggers (Christopher Dawson, Jason Perlow and others) over the years and have been "less than overwhelmed" but I recognized that the video I was watching and produced by the Skype software was never meant to be a substitute for "Broadcast quality" video productions.

    Are you saying or implying that if I were to use my iPad 3 or on my late model 27" iMac that the video feed that I would be watching is "Broadcast quality"? Or, using another comparison, how does the video quality of iMeet compare to Yahoo's current news report video feeds. (IMO, the Yahoo video reports from the London games were of excellent quality as displayed on my mobile and desktop browsers.)
    kenosha77a
    • I haven't but...

      Since I know that Gewirtz and Perlow both are avid fans of mine, they'll see this and run with it as their own.
      khess
    • imeet

      Imeet uses an h.264 codec to get the best quality possible while not abusing a customer's bandwidth. Given the "best effort" nature of the internet, however, nothing can be guaranteed "broadcast quality" - but Imeet sure looks great! Feel free to contact me for more information, or a demonstration from myself or one of our specialists!
      John Stegenga
    • i could say what i wanted here

      but why dont you try it for free and pass your own vote?

      lee.walkey@pgi.com
      Lee Walkey MiSMM
  • Of course, those not supporting a BYOD initiative can bypass this blog.

    Another valid argument for supporting a BYOD company initiative. I read the promo literature at iMeet's web site and they "claim" that their cloud based security is trusted by most of the Fortune 500 companies.

    If that claim is backed up by fact (and how would you know?) then it might be hard pressed to continue an anti-BYOD support position, (at least regarding this feature.)
    kenosha77a
    • BYOD

      Many of my CIO friends are all over the BYOD wave. It creates some challenges for them within the enterprise, but they know they have to be a part of the solution, not a road block. I think the iMeet product on a BYOD gives them the option to sanction a communication platform that can be used externally. iMeet provides them a measure of security and control in a BYOD world that can quickly get out of control if you don't provide guidance to users. I want control of my own device, but I am okay if IT says you can use this app to communicate if it meets my needs. Based on Ken's article, it seems to meet a lot of my needs and I am usually the one complaining about limitations.
      bwandc
      • The proof is in the pudding

        So... anyone want to play with/trial this product? just le me know

        lee.walkey@pgi.com
        Lee Walkey MiSMM
  • Wait for a while to compare

    Since most of the world uses Skype, I would be interested how iMeet performs under load - I'm sure it works fine for a few demos, slightly different if a significant number of people use it.
    Tony_McS
    • I'm looking forward to it

      I agree. I'm looking to do just that. That is, if I can find enough victims...umm, volunteers to help me out with it.
      khess
      • let me help

        If you need any help here let me know

        Lee.walkey@pgi.com
        Lee Walkey MiSMM
    • P2P vs SaaS

      Something to keep in mind here is that Skype is peer-to-peer solution while iMeet is a cloud-based, SaaS solution so the bandwidth required per user is substantially lower than Skype's.

      There's a pretty good breakdown of iMeet vs Skype on iMeet's blog: https://blog.imeet.com/the-differences-between-imeet-and-skype/
      writerwin
    • thousands of hours of use...

      Stability is what we live for at PGI. PGI does one thing, and one thing only - Collaboration Technologies.
      Imeet has gone through RIGOROUS internal beta tests before it's initial release, and each feature is testing by hundreds of internal users before we let them out into the wild. Are all of our releases perfect? I don't think any software company can claim that - so I won't suggest it either. But Imeet is THE way to do Desktop video conferencing. Our customers agree, and so does Deutsche Telekom - the'll be offering the service in their cloud services offering in Europe.
      John Stegenga
    • Skype vs iMeet

      Tony

      many people use skype because it was often (and still is) considered the only option... yet when you consisder all the pitfalls of skype vs imeet, as a BUSINESS user, you would be well advised to consider other...more secure systems such as iMeet.

      not sure? email me lee.walkey@pgi.com and i'll explain
      Lee Walkey MiSMM
  • Skype issues

    Skype used to work fine in our office for a point to point video conference between two seperate endpoints on the same network. Last year there was an update prior to MS purchasing Skype and the quality went south. We can still get good video but the audio is always choppy so we went to using the conference phone for audio and just using the video and that has worked fine but isn't what I consider to be the optimal way to use Skype.

    Our Enterprise purchased Adobe Connect and it works fine but there doesn't appear to be a way to minimize the video shot on your side, it reflects back both streams of video from the server in an equal size and I find that to be annoying as I don't need to see the group I am with reflected up on the screen in full size and the pod doesn't seem to be able to resize down.

    Maybe this offers a better solution if you can minimize the view of yourself on your own screen? Any thoughts on this Ken?

    Thanks
    hopp64
    • Imeet - the Spotlight cube.

      What we have, in Imeet, is a spotlight cube. each user can "spotlight" any other video cube by clicking it. When you do that, all the cubes switch to "avatar" or photo mode, and the video displayed to you is focused to display only the user you selected. You can toggle through the other attendees at will. By the way, the cubes themselves are pretty cool - they include any social networking information you choose to include - links to Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.. And the platform includes Evernote integration - take notes in the note pod, and push them to evernote with a click.
      John Stegenga
    • give me a shout and Ill help you test this

      lee.walkey@pgi.com
      Lee Walkey MiSMM
  • iMeet is a great service

    I like iMeet a lot. It's incredibly easy to use, and I've found that I now communicate more often (and more efficiently) with clients and non-Skype using family members via video, because no one is required to download any software to jump on and use it. I just send over the URL to my personal meeting room, and they're in! I also like using it on my iPad and think that the social media feature integrations ("tweeting" participants during meetings), etc... is also cool. I've had bad experiences with WebEx and Skype...
    MrPhillips
  • We utilized iMeet for our High School Graduation

    Our private school utilized iMeet for our High School Graduation as a way for our Principal, who was away at his OWN secondary graduation, to deliver his address to the parents, students and audience. By utilizing iMeet we were able to provide a "broadcast quality" delivery of our Principal's speech that was live and allowed for some interactive capability with our Head of School. iMeet truly provided a high quality product for our school with superior sound and clarity.
    Sarah at SCA
  • Video conferencing

    Very good article. Additionally, RHUB appliances can be used for conducting video conferencing, web conferencing, free audio conferencing, webinars, web conferences etc.
    michaelclark123