Citrix put out a press release today announcing availability of a new product called GoToWebinar Premier Event. The new webcasting product fills a former gap in the types of web events that could be handled by the GoTo line of collaboration products.
GoToMeeting has served Citrix well for peer-level web meetings and small group presentations. It also allows live video communication between participants. It handles participant groups of up to 15 (or 25 with special arrangements). GoToWebinar is intended for more lecture-oriented webinars, accommodating up to 1,000 participants. Unfortunately Citrix has not yet enabled their HDFaces video streaming capability for GoToWebinar (although hope springs eternal that it will eventually arrive).
Those products satisfy the needs of individual users, small and medium businesses, and many departmental uses in corporate situations. But they don’t give Citrix entry to the big money events put on at the full enterprise level. How do you handle public announcements from a CEO to all employees? How do you support streaming video out to shareholders and investors of a large company? How do you run educational events for thousands of association members? There is money to be made for a web conferencing vendor willing to support those types of application scenarios.
I got on the line with Bernardo de Albergaria (Citrix Online VP and General Manager of Collaboration) and Lisa Littlefield (Product Marketing Manager for GoToWebinar). I had quite a few questions based on the press release. I was interested in specific operation of some webcasting functions, but mainly I wanted to know how Citrix had suddenly enabled a variety of capabilities that the GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar products could not boast.
The new Premier Event version of GoToWebinar allows attendees to join via web browser access, with no software download. It has payment processing for fee-based events. It supports full streaming video to large audiences. It supports access from iOS, Android, and Blackberry mobile devices. It allows inclusion of prerecorded video clips. It seemed to me that these were significant departures from the GoTo base platform I was familiar with. Had Citrix really been developing a new technology base?
My confusion cleared up when I saw screen shots (and later some sample event recordings) from the product. Although it uses the GoToWebinar name for family continuity and brand identity purposes, it really has nothing to do with GoToWebinar. It is a completely separate product. As a matter of fact, a sharp-eyed person conversant with other webcast products currently on the market might detect a certain familiarity in the look and feel of GoToWebinar Premier Event.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m a fan of products that are designed to fit their intended use cases. Just don’t think that because you know how to drive GoToWebinar today, you can pay a little more and instantly move up to a larger audience size. It’s a different technology.
Different as well is the fact that Premier Event is only available bundled with professional services. You don’t just license the software and schedule your own web events when you feel like it, as is the case with GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. You are assigned a production supervisor who configures your account, sets up registration page customizations, determines whether you need support with extra services such as camera operators and real-time caption transcribers, and monitors the live event.
Citrix has also moved away from its policy of clearly stated up-front pricing neatly laid out on web pages. Standardized price sheets were a disruptive – and welcome -feature when GoToMeeting first came to market. They took away much of the “car salesman” approach to webinar price negotiations that turned off many potential users. You could accurately budget an event just by looking at the web page. This forced many other vendors to follow suit, allowing price comparison shopping.
I’ll miss that transparency with Premier Event, but I have to say I understand it. I don’t post a rate sheet for my webinar support services either! It is hard to put standard pricing out there that matches the wide variations from event to event in required level of services, event duration, and expected audience size.
All in all, I would feel very comfortable using GoToWebinar Premier Event for large scale webcasts. It is more battle-tested than you might think for a new product and I am confident that you don’t have to worry about the “Release 1.0 Curse.” It is use-case specific, with the right features for big webcasts. And if your company already uses other GoTo products for smaller levels of web collaboration, the single-vendor supply line might make your life easier from a billing and support standpoint.