The scoop: HP SkyRoom software, by HP, about $150 (plus $120 for Webcam and headphones).
What it is: Launched at DEMOfall 09 last month, the HP SkyRoom software allows for high-definition videoconferencing for employees at their desk. Going beyond a simple Webcam chat, the SkyRoom software lets participants share multimedia files with each other (as many as four people can participate in a SkyRoom session). Unlike WebEx and other online meeting services, there's no subscription fee with SkyRoom, just the one-time software charge. The software also comes pre-installed free on the company's Z800, Z600, Z400 and xw4600 workstations. Other PCs and notebooks from HP coming soon will include a free 90-day trial of SkyRoom. Like many instant messaging tools (including Skype), SkyRoom sessions can be launched quickly from a buddy list.
Why it's cool: The ability to show multimedia files within a video chat session was impressive — in our tests, we could share a movie trailer and a supplied computer-aided design animation without any latency or jitter in the video. The video and audio quality was outstanding, definitely better than a standard Skype chat session.
Some caveats: Participants can only use SkyRoom if they're connected to the same business network. People in two different geographic locations can only use SkyRoom if one of them has a VPN tunnel into the corporate network. HP says at least 1Mbps of bandwidth is needed between the sites for a single point-to-point connection. Businesses that are firewalled off from each other can't use a SkyRoom video conference. Another downside: the ability to collaborate with colleagues is basically a “read only” scenario — I could share a video or any part of my desktop with my colleague, but the colleague couldn't “take over” and then edit or utilize the desktop (other Webconferencing services let participants share in this manner).
Bottom line: I can see employees using this for meetings where face-to-face contact is helpful, but collaboration is limited to “see what I've done here and tell me what you think” situations, rather than, “Here, see what I've done and you make the corrections.” Standard “share the presentation” sessions that require a videoconference setting would also benefit from SkyRoom.
Grade: 3.5 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Zorap Facebook application, by Zorap, free.
What it is: Launched a few months ago as a stand-alone application/service, Zorap lets you create multimedia chat rooms, in which you can share photos, music, videos and files within a Web-based space. The latest version includes this functionality within Facebook, so you can create a Zorap-enabled chat room with your Facebook login credentials.
Why it's cool: The Zorap “room” includes a video chat, and the ability to share photos, music, video and other files stored on your PC with other attendees. In addition, you can share YouTube video clips, imeem music streams and Google images. The Flash-based interface lets you move the components around during the chat, and Zorap can support as many as 50 simultaneous sessions (although we only tried it with two people). It's a great way to get a bunch of friends together to chat and share multimedia with each other.
Some caveats: I'd like to see a “Web page” button that brings up a Web browser for sharing. The site isn't really designed for serious business collaboration, but like IM, this is something that could bubble up through the company.