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1/24/2005
04:11 PM
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Online Collaboration At No Cost

Advanced Reality's browser plug-in allows two or more people in different locations to surf the Web together.

Advanced Reality Inc. on Monday unveiled JYBE, a free Web browser plug-in that allows two or more people in different locations to surf the Web together.

Brian Hoogendam, president of Advanced Reality, says the collaboration-software company's product will enable companies to improve business processes and let consumers experience the Internet with friends and family. The plug-in works with Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Users can communicate via phone or instant messaging while they surf.

Landy Haile, a sales associate at Scott Gray Commercial Real Estate in Houston and an early user of JYBE, says the software provides a new way to work with clients. "It allows us to show clients product that's out there on our Web site or other people's Web sites," he explains. "It's one thing to tell them information about the property. But it's another thing to have all that information in front of them. It's just a better experience in doing what we do."

Mike Gotta, senior VP and principal analyst at Meta Group, says that while JYBE might be appropriate for consumers or small businesses, larger companies have more complex needs. "For medium to larger enterprises, they're 50 to 80 [Web collaboration] vendors to choose from, some of which have a lot more robust security, registration features, integration features," he says. "The more you get into an enterprise business scenario, the more capabilities you're likely to want."

For example, Advanced Reality suggests that JYBE could be useful for customer support. While that may be true for small businesses, larger companies might not be able to integrate their customer-relationship-management systems into the Web-surfing interaction. "That's a huge barrier," Gotta says. "If I'm using this for customer service, then I want all the hooks into my CRM system so I can tell who the customers are, are they gold-level, and so on."

Still, improved utility for businesses is coming soon. Advanced Reality plans to add the ability to convert PowerPoint presentations to HTML and share them securely.

While JYBE may not dethrone the leading Web-conferencing tools, WebEx and Microsoft LiveMeeting, the availability of a free, easy-to-use Web collaboration should further awareness and adoption of online collaboration.

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