Have you ever wanted to host a video chat over Skype with more than two participants? How about sharing documents or presentations while chatting in real time? Well video conferencing startup ViVu has got you covered, with a new plugin that will allow enterprises to host multi-user video chats and share documents through Skype.
ViVu, which came out of stealth mode last October with a $3 million Series A financing round, offers a SaaS video webcast and collaboration service that it hopes will rival Citrix’s (s CTXS) GoToMeeting and Cisco’s (s CSCO) WebEx. The startup launched with a browser-based platform for video conferencing that can support hundreds of users and allows participants to interact with each other while viewing presentations or other materials.
Now the company is stepping outside the browser with a Skype plugin, called VuRoom, that extends its multi-user video chat and collaboration capabilities to the voice and video conferencing application. Looking to continue to offer low-priced alternatives to GoToMeeting and WebEx, ViVu has priced VuRoom at just $9.95 a month for users that will act as conference hosts — and the plugin is free to download for conference participants. ViVu is also making the plugin available for free to customers that use its browser-based conferencing service.
Once installed, a host can select users from his Skype buddy list to join a video chat and share documents or his desktop with users in the conference. But the plugin isn’t necessary to join a conference; hosts can also have Skype buddies join by clicking a URL, which will take them to a browser-based user interface.
Being able to connect without having the plugin installed is a plus, since the installation process isn’t as easy as one might hope, in my experience. It’s a job that is probably best left to IT staff — or at least done with the help of someone that is familiar with setting it up. As a result, it’s not clear how many participants will end up installing the plugin on their own. However, once installed, the app works as advertised and delivers an easy-to-use interface for chatting with multiple participants and sharing documents, based on my test with ViVu CEO Sudha Valluru.
ViVu currently has about 50 enterprise customers for its browser-based conferencing but hopes to grow that number by extending to other platforms. According to Valluru, the Skype plugin is just the first step for VuRoom, which ViVu plans to extend to other instant messaging platforms in the near future.
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