It had to happen eventually. Citrix first announced that they were planning to add live video capabilities to their web conferencing products on October 6 of 2010 (as faithfully covered by yours truly). At that time they said they were shooting for availability in Q1 of 2011.
By late May of this year, they had the beta version available for testing. Naturally your dedicated correspondent tried that out and reported early findings.
And now at last we have the production version released to the public. But proving that there is much more to incorporation of video than meets the eye (ha!), it is only available in GoToMeeting. Availability in GoToWebinar and GoToTraining is now targeted for the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012 according to Bernardo de Albergaria, the VP and GM of Collaboration at Citrix Online.
I had a video conference with Bernardo and two other Citrix representatives last week to take a look at the production version. Honestly, there isn’t too much more to tell than there was in my beta review. It just works. Image quality is excellent, video lag is practically nonexistent (but I have a very high speed internet connection and a fast new computer), and usage is simplicity itself.
Citrix decided to forego many options for messing with the video image in favor of the “join and go” approach used in GoToMeeting as a whole. So you don’t set frame rates or image sizes or any other technical settings. You don’t get the choice to incrementally resize a video window (although you can choose between full screen and windowed modes). You can move video windows to any side of your screen, but you can’t change from a strip view to grid view when there are multiple presenters. You also can’t choose to expand or focus on one image out of the full set of video participants. This may annoy power users, but it will make life much easier for the average web conference participant who doesn’t want to fiddle with things.
This time around I did not see any problems with recognizing my webcam and I asked Bernardo to try unplugging his camera and replugging it during our session. GoToMeeting was able to adapt to the changes in connection status without a hiccup. So kudos there.
I asked Bernardo what took so long in finishing the production version. He said one of the biggest hurdles was programming the video on how to react to and cope with different participant bandwidths. The video stream and display continuously adjusts to match the bandwidth of each viewer. It goes through a combination of image quality step-downs as needed. This may result in lower frame rates, lower resolution, and in the worst cases, pixelation or stop/start of the image. Priority is given to the audio stream, so video will suffer on an extremely poor connection. But in a high bandwidth scenario, it looks great.
The video capabilities are standard with both the Windows and Mac versions of GoToMeeting at no additional charge over the standard use license. I asked about use on mobile devices and Bernardo said that HDFaces support for the iPad is targeted for Q1 of 2012, while other devices may be supported later.
I don’t always think that video is such a great idea for large public webinars, but it can be a marvelous addition to collaborative sessions with people you know and work with. So the addition of the feature for all GoToMeeting users is a welcome enhancement. You should definitely check it out.