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by David Haskin

Rating 85

Many of us have used third party conference call services for communicating with a group of people at different locations. The Astound Conference Center takes this idea a step further. This service enables users to show PowerPoint presentations over the Web. The presentations are shared live with a group of people at different locations.

Once registered with Astound, a few clicks on the home page schedules a conference. Then, following a sequential series of dialog boxes, the presenter uploads to the site, sets a time, and receives an identification number for the conference. Users then notify the viewers telling them when the conference starts and the identification number so they can log on.

Presenters and viewers must download small Java applications that run in standard browsers, which takes only a few minutes with a dial-up connection. Like giving a presentation in person, a click of the mouse forwards to the next bullet point or slide.

Because some effects are lost when converting presentation slides to HTML-based Web pages, the transitions and other effects used in our test presentation worked only sporadically on the Web, but the site warns when a problem will occur. Graphically, however, the on-screen presentation looked identical to our PowerPoint slides.

The application has a text chat module and the ability for presenters to add annotations, such as adding check marks or other graphics.

The service is free for three or fewer viewers if the size of the presentation file is less than 2MB. The paid service varies according to number of viewers and the length of conferences. The company estimates a one-time conference with 100 attendees costs about $1,500. There is also the option to lease the facilities.

This service is an easy way to transmit ideas without a lot of expense, time, and inconvenience.
This article was originally published on April 01, 2000

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