Web Meetings for Nothing, Collaborate for Free

How affordable would a Web conferencing service have to be to entice you to give it a try? How about free?

That’s the approach Convoq is taking with ASAP Express, a free Web conferencing service announced yesterday. This is a bit of a good news, bad news story. The bad news is that the Web meeting is limited to one-to-one virtual encounters. The good news is that this isn’t a gimmick. According to Kim Shah, vice president of marketing at Convoq, ASAP Express isn’t a limited-time offer.

ASAP Express will allow you to conduct unlimited free one-to-one Web meetings featuring VoIP, video, text chat, screen sharing, PowerPoint and file transfers. “Express is for one-to-one meetings, and for many scenarios that’s enough,” Shah said.

Of course, the company hopes your needs will expand and you will choose to add more than two people on a pay-as-you-go basis, which you can do for 15 cents per minute for each participant. Ultimately, the company hopes you will choose to upgrade to ASAP Pro at $249.95 per year for unlimited meetings for up to 15 people.

Those Who Can, Don’t
Web-based meetings face two challenges: Not everyone has access to the technology and some people that do have access to it don’t use it. Convoq points to IDC research that cites that three-quarters of companies that use online conferencing do not provide access to it to all employees. And many employees who do have access find the systems difficult to use, according the research firm.

ASAP Express
ASAP Express lets you collaborate with a colleague or a customer. And you can’t beat the price — it’s free.

Shah said he hopes that ASAP Express will both extend the reach of Web-based meeting services and entice doubters to give it a try. “I hope people stop being frightened by it.”

Shah also points out that because ASAP Express is based on Flash technology, users don’t need to download software to use the Web meeting service.

Recognizing that impromptu meetings, rather than scheduled Web conferences, frequently drive business decisions, ASAP Express features ASAP Links. The feature allows you to embed and publish presence-enabled links in e-mails, Web sites or blogs, allowing colleagues, customers or prospects to view your online availability and launch into an ad hoc meetings.

For example, a salesperson can tap the benefits of real-time communication by immediately responding to client inquiries. By adding presence-enabled links to an e-mail signature, a sales representative can show that he or she is online. That, the thinking goes, would prompt a customer to initiate an instant online conference. ASAP Express then permits the sales representative to share a PowerPoint presentation or even view live video with the client or prospect.

Convoq is especially interested in reaching the growing number of blog publishers. The company claims that 5.6 million blogs exist worldwide and a new blog is created every 5.3 seconds. Using ASAP Express and ASAP Links, readers can see the availability of the blogger and simply click to launch into a discussion with the author.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com’s Small Business Channel and EarthWeb’s Networking & Communications Channel.

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