Is there room in the market for yet another Web-based collaboration service? After all, we already have WebEx and GoToMeeting, among others. Yugma Inc., a Minneapolis company that recently launched version 3 of its collaboration software, thinks the answer is Yes.
We tested the service recently and came away frustrated initially, but in the end reasonably impressed.
The Yugma service lets session leaders invite participants to a Web conference—including non-registered users who have not downloaded client software. Participants can then view and interact with a presenter’s desktop or with a single application program on his system.
Yugma provides a free audio conference bridge—you pay only long distance charges—and offers as well a version integrated (though not 100 percent) with Skype. Client software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The Basics—Features and Pricing
A session leader can designate another participant as presenter, or give a participant mouse and keyboard control of his desktop or the application. Yugma includes annotation tools—free-hand drawing, shapes, underlining, etc.—that either the presenter or a participant can use to mark up a document on the screen.
All can use the whiteboard feature in brain storming sessions. And the shared file space lets participants upload a file to the Yugma server for others to download. An IM-like chat facility and session recording round out the main conference features.
|The Yugma client interface. Click to see full-size image.|
Like most such services, Yugma offers both free and premium versions. The free Yugma Personal service limits the number of participants in a conference (to ten), and provides only 15-day trials of some of the most useful features such as mouse/keyboard sharing, annotation and white boarding.
The Professional service comes in three versions, the main difference being the number of participants allowed per session: 20, 100, or 500. Prices range from $20 to $90 a month, or from $200 to $900 if you pay annually.
A Webinar feature that allows presenters to set up structured one-to-many sessions is only available with the Professional 100 and 500 services. And Yugma Enterprise, an un-priced high-end option, throws in group account administration, consolidated billing and a branded meeting portal page.
The Testing Experience
Our initial experience with Yugma was not good. But it got better.
Most volunteer testers had no problem registering for the service and downloading and installing the client software. One was ultimately unable to get the software properly installed, for reasons never determined.
We encountered various other problems in our first two test conferences, however. Some participants appeared to lose data connectivity part way through and couldn’t see the presenter’s desktop at all, even though they were still shown as logged in to the session.
Response for some was very sluggish, so that slides displayed on the presenter’s desktop did not appear until a few seconds later on their screens. And in the end, the client software appeared to freeze on at least one participant’s system. The teleconference bridge worked well.
The company later explained that it had encountered problems during the cut-over to new client and server software—performed, as luck would have it, the night before our first test. Some but not all of these problems were corrected by the second test.
In a third test, conducted several days later, after Yugma indicated that the product was now stable, the service and software performed very well indeed.