My friend and colleague, Ken Molay once wrote an amusing blog article about a person who claimed she could run a webinar while on an airplane. Assuming the claim was on the up-and-up, who would ever want to attend such a webinar, with babies crying in the background and pilots announcing over the PA system, “On your left is the Grand Canyon”?
Well, producing a “mobile webinar” is one thing but attending a webinar on the go is quite another and is a lot more plausible. That’s where Adobe’s Connect Pro Mobile application for the iPhone comes in. I wish I could give the application a rave review but I just can’t. Here was my experience.
First, I tried to attend a webinar from Adobe’s e-Seminar series. Typing the long URL into the iPhone app’s entry field was like defusing a bomb. One wrong character and boom, the experience blows up in your face. First suggestion: allow the Mobile app to be launched from a hyperlink within an email. Alas, after carefully entering the URL into the app, I was greeted with a message to the effect of “server not found”. I tried multiple times, not trusting my reading nor typing skills, to no avail.
Time for test two. I launched my own meeting and then tried to join as a guest from the iPhone. Success! I actually got in this time. In this test, the application performed as promised but there is one important warning for webinar presenters. Because the iPhone does not afford much presentation real estate, slides display quite small. One can “maximize” the presentation screen to achieve slightly better fidelity but text intensive slides are quite hard to read. If you expect multiple mobile attendees to your webinar, the old maxim of less text, more pictures, is extra important. (Adobe advertises one feature which I did not test where you can use the typical iPhone finger “pinching” controls to zoom in on parts of a presentation slide. Of course, the trick here is zooming before the presenter advances to the next slide.)
The other limitation is that all your fancy slide transitions get lost on the iPhone. Slides simply “pop” into place. As far as slide builds are concerned, I found that they also pop into place on the iPhone without any animation. Honestly, I wasn’t the least bit surprised by this. I think it was reasonable for the developer to have modest goals in release 1.0 of the product.
Again, because of limited real estate, the application dedicates separate screens to the video, chat and presentation pods. In this test, I used telephone audio integration and the voice came over the iPhone via VOIP perfectly well. Contrary to the Adobe demo, the application did not prompt me to join the phone portion of the webinar, even though phone integration was enabled. The chat feature worked fine. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to test my web-cam video feed, which brings us to test 3.
In test 3, I enabled my web-cam, fired up my meeting room and excitedly executed my iPhone app, only to be greeted by the message, “The entered room does not exist”. Now this might have been true in some alternate universe, but since I launched the room myself and was in the room as a presenter, I knew the room did “exist”. I Googled my error message and followed some hints by fellow users. I played with access settings. I changed the “http://” in the URL to “https://” which worked for one user. It did not work for me. I changed the start time of my meeting room on the off chance that the iPhone app was looking for a “new” meeting. Nothing worked.
So there you have it. When the application works, it works with reasonable quality for a cutting edge application in its first release. The problem is that it doesn’t always work. Its failure is, as far as I can tell, unpredictable. Therefore I cannot recommend the application to anyone who must attend a mission critical webinar while on the road.
The application shows so much potential that I sincerely hope Adobe devotes some more development time to it. While conducting a webinar from a plane, train or airport waiting room is pretty preposterous, attending one is quite reasonable in this mobile computing age.