Free online meeting applications, such as Yugma, which I wrote about yesterday, have gotten very powerful in recent years, but they still don’t do all the cool things they could do. Few of them offer any sophisticated way to deal with video, especially high-definition video, and the devices you can use them on tend to be limited. These last two shortcomings are why a review of CallWave’s Fuze that I saw on PC World’s site caught my eye.
After trying Fuze, even though it’s not free and I’ve been slightly more impressed with the features in paid services such as WebEx’s, I think many web workers will want to try it.
With telecommuting on the rise, and everyone looking to save on travel costs, the environment is ripe for growing collaboration in online meeting applications. Dimdim, Yugma, Yuuguu and other free applications are all outstanding, but Fuze offers some very slick features that usually cost a fair amount of money in paid conferencing applications such as WebEx’s.
Fuze is entirely browser-based, which is a convenience. This means that neither you nor people you invite to meetings have to download and install anything. You can invite people into your Fuze meetings, or you can use a process called “Fetch” to ping an attendee online, and all that’s required to join a meeting is a link to your secure session.
The overarching strength of the application is that it allows you upload rich media content along with the standard types of documents and presentations found in online meetings. This can include high-end video, and you use the content uploader seen below to share the content with others.
In a Fuze meeting, attendees can freeze video and annotate it, and do many other collaborative, interactive things. Attendees can also accumulate a list of action points as a meeting progresses. Moreover, iPhone users and Blackberry users can participate in meetings (according to PC World, a Windows Mobile solution is coming as well).
There is now a WebEx client for the iPhone, and WebEx is better at handling video than some of the free conferencing applications, but Fuze is cheaper. It’s $29.95 a month, with a free trial available, and single-meeting pricing coming. WebEx is significantly more expensive, although it does have a convenient 33 cents per minute option.
You can view a demo of Fuze at the service’s site. I signed up for it without a credit card and, after an e-mail with my login information, was up and using it. Especially if you share rich media with others, the small monthly fee may be worth it.