Web conferencing hasn’t evolved
Although the company will deny it, a rebranded Ring2 – now known as LoopUp – is taking on the bigger players in web and audio conferencing with its own simpler offering designed for hassle-free everyday use.
Web or audio conferencing is often seen as an unavoidable, ugly necessity to network for remote meetings. But it is known to be cumbersome and quite often, a timewasting pain in the neck to set up before the participants can actually get on with talking. LoopUp is providing a simpler service which requires a participant to enter their phone number into a webpage and automatically get connected to the room.
When in, participants can see who else is or isn’t in the room already and their connection status – as well as an optional simple screen-sharing function on the right of the screen. Unfortunately this didn’t work for us – yes, we have Java and Flash installed – but the idea is nice and ChannelBiz is assured in most cases it is hitch free. Compared to some conferencing software we have seen it was a doddle.
LoopUp points out that, bizarrely, web conferencing hasn’t evolved very much since its inception. Even though technical problems can plague conferenced board meetings, most of the users accept them as given. LoopUp’s CEO Steve Flavell says the product is “looking to solve a bunch of annoyances that go on in conference calls.”
According to Flavell, the product is trying to cope with simple challenges such as not knowing who is on at any given time or who is speaking, as well as eliminating problems like background noise. “These frustrations have grown up with the industry and are still very evident today,” he said, speaking with ChannelBiz UK. “Conferencing is still a preserve of specialist users, we are looking at how to make it more approachable to the mainstream business users.”
There is app support for LoopUp on iOS, Android, and Blackberry. As many of LoopUp’s roughly 1,500 customers are in the enterprise, the corporate-approved Blackberry is still the most common. Having smartphone app support is useful for conferencing, Flavell said. “The reason we get a lot of users genuinely using these apps, as opposed to seeing them as gimmicks, is so many calls are done from meeting rooms,” he said. “You’ll go in to use a speaker phone and a bit of quiet, you probably won’t take your PC in with you but you pretty much always will take your smartphone in with you – it’s a very relevant device to have at hand so you can see what’s going on in meetings.”
LoopUp commissioned a survey of 1,000 companies, 500 in the UK and 500 in the USA. According to Flavell, there was “an 80 percent agreement that these annoyances that grew up with conferencing are an issue”. He said that the companies agreed web conferencing problems stifled productivity and stopped people getting through their agenda efficiently, as well as impacting the enthusiasm on participating in the meeting in the first place.
A reason conferencing has barely evolved is because the big players ask their customers what they want. Which is great. However, when they are asking the specialists, the companies get a very sensible and long list of requirements back that overcomplicate the process but do fit their needs. “The impact of this is that over time all these specialist features requirements have built up, and they now manifest themselves in corporate tender documents for conferencing,” Flavell said. These tender documents can be a “long laundry list” of requirements which are, “almot by definition”, not great for the mainstream user. LoopUp noticed a gap in the market and thinks that is the opportunity and growth market for web conferencing. It is a “different kettle of fish” for a normal business manager, or a banker, or a lawyer.