Adobe posted an announcement on their blog today giving specifics on their Adobe Connect 9.3 release, due out this Fall. I got a briefing from Alistair Lee, the Sr. Enablement Manager for Adobe Connect, and Rocky Mitarai, Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Connect.
As a "dot release" this upgrade is not intended to add or change major areas of functionality. It allows Adobe to do some incremental bug fixing and refine the operation of existing features. There is a little something for everyone here:
Easier social media integration - particularly Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Marketers can now use Adobe's integrated content management system to drag a Facebook Like and a Twitter Share button onto a promotional web page. The buttons are automatically linked to the event registration information and you can further customize their operation. You can also include a new Social Media Pod in a Connect meeting room to show tweets and pictures related to a given hashtag.
Better integration with Salesforce.com. Event administrators have shortcuts allowing them to send meeting invitations to selected contacts or export contact information from Adobe reports directly to Salesforce without requiring an export/import file.
Email improvements. A new email status report summarizes blocked or spam-diverted emails sent to invitees and administrators can now include an opt-out link in email templates.
Whiteboard enhancements. A new control bar attempts to make commands more intuitive and more consistent with other Adobe drawing applications. Advanced users may like the fact that they can use pen and pencil strokes that more closely mimic physical pen and pencil marks on paper.
More control during screen sharing. Presenters now have interaction controls such as video, audio, and chat available to them while running a screen share. You can also see a preview of what is about to be shared before pushing it live to attendees.
Guided hints for novices. A sort of "tutorial mode" is enabled for new users, giving explanations of different features in the meeting room. This can be disabled to eliminate distractions.
Adobe is trying to satisfy quite a wide range of interests and use cases with all these upgrades. No single user is likely to care about all of them at the same time, but you can probably find at least one or two that are significant to the way you use the product.
For my personal use cases, I expect the screen sharing preview and control enhancements to give me the greatest benefit. I would have said that the in-room Twitter feed was one of the coolest features, but I was not completely satisfied with the way Adobe chose to implement it. When the administrator selects a hashtag to monitor, the screen shows tweets and pictures in separately framed boxes in the pod. It takes up a lot of wasted screen space and I found it hard to get a sense of conversational flow. Tweets look like independent objects rather than a communal thread.
I was also disappointed that the pod can only display tweets for a single hashtag at a time. If you try to monitor a second hashtag, it shows results in another tab. So if I were wanted my attendees to see tweets related to #webinar and #webinars on one of my events, they would have to keep switching between tabs to see everything.
Design preferences aside, I remain very positive about Adobe Connect as a powerful, general-purpose tool for webinars and web conferences and I am also encouraged by their ongoing development and update process.