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12/2/2010
00:22 AM
Fritz Nelson
Fritz Nelson
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Fuze Box Puts HD Video Into Meetings

Fuze Box has added videoconferencing to its collaboration software. This capability will be extended to the company's iPad and Android applications in January.

Fuze Meeting
Fuze Meeting
(click image for larger view)
Fuze Box is at it again, taking its compelling multi-platform application into collaborative nooks and crannies that have yet to be explored by any other company. Starting Thursday, private beta users will be able to share live high definition video within Fuze meetings, thanks to the company's new videoconference capability, called Fuze Presence. More important, Fuze Presence comes to the iPad as a target device, and soon after to Samsung's Galaxy Tablet. In other words, full multimedia collaborative meetings get even better for mobile workers.

The Android version will let the Galaxy Tablet serve as a video host, since that tablet includes a video camera; the iPad still needs a camera, but that's rumored to be coming shortly, and meanwhile the iPad can receive a video feed during a meeting. (Note: Cisco announced last month that it was adding similar capability to WebEx. This became available on the iPad Thursday.)

Fuze Meeting, which runs on multiple platforms, including within a browser on the desktop, and within native applications on Android, iPad, iPhone and BlackBerry devices, allows workers to share documents and images (including video files), annotate the images and video, and also supports a variety of audio conferencing options (including an in-meeting SIP-based VoIP client). It also has in-meeting chats, including integration with services like Microsoft OCS and MSN, AIM, Yahoo IM and Google Talk.

I've tested and used the product on many platforms and it rivals products like WebEx, GoToMeeting and Adobe Connect. I have not tested the application with a large group of participants. For a deeper dive on Fuze capabilities, you can read this review. You can also see it in action in this slideshow.

The addition of live HD video is a major new accomplishment, especially since that video can be seen on the iPad. I participated in a live video collaborative session with the Fuze team to get a glimpse of the app, and it worked great. Over the course of the conference, Fuze sent four separate video sessions into my meeting window, each of which performed well. One of the live video feeds came from an iPhone. My iPad was on a wireless network.

The company says that there really isn't a limit to how many video users can be online, although the size of the display will eventually limit how many windows you want open at one time. Each new video auto-fits the video panel. I was able to re-arrange the windows and identify one as a favorite (this one gets more space and higher resolution). Eight windows is probably the optimal number, the company says.

Fuze uses an algorithm to determine the available bandwidth and adjusts its video resolution (on the target device) based on that. The company says its H.264 codec delivers video at 720p at under 200 ms latency.

Senior product manager Greg Saiz said that the company will look to integrate other end-user video solutions as opportunities present themselves. It sounds as if Apple's Facetime app might be first up. (Note: Any video-only solution will not allow the client to participate in the rest of the meeting features.) Because the desktop application runs in flash, RIM's Playbook could be a great next target for Fuze, but Saiz told me that the company will be exploring the advantages of QNX (the Playbook's native platform) as well. For now, platforms like BlackBerry can still participate in a Fuze session, but will not be able to view the video portion.

Fuze says that it has doubled its installed base since it rolled out its iPad application (back in late September). The company thinks that the expected explosion in tablet devices will help it grow that much more.

Fritz Nelson is the editorial director for InformationWeek and the Executive Producer of TechWebTV. Fritz writes about startups and established companies alike, but likes to exploit multiple forms of media into his writing.

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