Smartphones That Work for Business
Our Carl Weinschenk looks at the best mobile tech on the market today.
The smartphone and Web conferencing are matched as well as Laurel and Hardy, or for younger readers, Brangelina.
The logic is inescapable: Road warriors, especially those who don't like lugging around laptops, can now drop in on an online meeting through the powerful devices and access many of the tools associated with larger endpoints, such as desktops.
At least three recent pieces of news show that the category is maturing:
On April 27, AT&T announced a free mobile conferencing app for the App Store. The app facilitates use of the iPhone for Web-based conferences, according to AT&T. The application consolidates many conferencing products, and gives users the ability to view whiteboards. The app offers a number of features, including audio setup simplification, the ability to interact with other attendees at a deep level, and the use of notes to chat with one or more fellow participants.
Also in late April, WebEx introduced an app for Research in Motion's BlackBerry. A blog on the initiative, written by a Cisco executive, says the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center is a free download that supports newer BlackBerry devices that run on OS 4.6. WebEx, the blog says, already supports the iPad; the new app offers many of the same features, including integrated audio call back, shared presentation views, chat and the ability to view the participant list.
The third and perhaps most interesting news hit is that on Monday Google Acquisition Holdings announced that it has agreed to buy Global IP Solutions (GIPS). GIPs, according to CTO Edge, specializes in VoIP and video processing and offers mobile voice and video conferencing, among other things. Though the story says "Google is being rather vague about what exactly it plans to do with GIPS," it is a safe bet that mobile conferencing is somewhere in the mix.
Some context is provided by this Computerworld story. After pointing out all the positives of Web-based conferences, writer Tom Kaneshige raises a yellow flag in a part of the story that uses a quote from Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler:
Mobile Web conferencing adoption, however, faces a big hurdle. Too few people in a company will actually use it. About a third of the workforce in a given company works remotely, Schadler says. But mobile Web conferencing doesn't apply to them because they work mostly at home. He estimates that only 10% to 15% of a company's workforce can be called real road warriors.
Kaneshige further estimates that only a small fraction of the people who spend a lot of time on the road participate in Web conferences, and only a portion of those do so on a regular basis. There is a hidden benefit, despite those numbers: Kaneshige says high-level executives often are among the biggest fans.