Meet Powwownow

A couple years ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine at a large conferencing company who secretly confided in me that he didn’t use said company’s web conferencing solution.  Instead, he confessed, he used a little screensharing app that ‘just gets the job done.’  A very brief summary of the conversation is this:  “sometimes you just need to show your desktop.”

True enough.

I recently had a brief but wonderful chat with Andrew Pearce, CEO of UK-based Powwownow (they also offer a solution for users on the west side of the Atlantic).  Like many conferencing vendors, audio conferencing is where they keep the lights on, and web conferencing is a convenient add-on for those who need more than audio-only communication.

In Andrew’s words, “Free doesn’t have to mean cheap,” and Powwownow has an uber-simple way to get started.  To be straight up, Powwownow is built on another platform (they don’t list it publicly, so I won’t), but that in no way diminishes the offering.

Here are a few things I liked:

Chat integration and presence
For those collaborating with the same team regularly, Powwownow has business-class chat/instant messaging that would make it really useful to detect a team member’s availability and quickly bring them into a sharing session.  While not alone in offering this, the small-medium business market that they target may indeed find this a useful addition.  The fact that Powwownow’s chat integrates with the major instant messaging platforms increases its potential usefulness.

The upside of “not many features” is “quick and easy.”  If you want to present, both PC and Mac users have a small download to install, and while I didn’t test this from an attendee’s perspective, I understand that end-users don’t have to install anything to participate in a web meeting.  I do think that if you don’t have the extra tools at hand that you’ll never learn to use them, but I also know that you’re not going to use them all the time.

iPhone app with a nice twist
One pretty cool “problem solved” is that those with iPhones can download an app that will let you instantly jump into a conference call without having to enter passcode details.

Andrew mentioned the availability of video “later in the year,” and given their thoughtful use of the iPhone app, it might be interesting to see what happens now that iPhone 4 is out.  To be sure, if you just need to share your desktop with a “straight out of the tin” solution, Powownow might be worth a peek.

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