I want to use my Chromebook to conduct online meetings.
Google+ Hangouts seems to be the obvious first choice. But joining a Hangout requires a Google+ account. Not every client - or potential client - will want to go through a sign-up process to participate in a web meeting. That limits the viability of Hangouts for many purposes.
Perhaps the Google Apps Marketplace?
The major benefit of using the Apps Marketplace is authentication: people don't need to remember yet another username and password. Instead, users login to Google Apps, then choose the Marketplace application they need from the "More" drop-down menu found in the black bar at the top of the screen.
Adding an app to your Google Apps account from the Marketplace is simple. Login to the Google Apps control panel (this assumes you're the account administrator), then find the app in the Google Apps Marketplace. Click the "Add it now" button, and then walk through the configuration and approval process.
Most apps in the Marketplace work extremely well on a Chromebook. I use many Marketplace apps often, including Aviary, LucidChart, MindMeister, Doodle, and Freshbooks.
But web meeting apps present the particularly difficult challenge of sharing documents combined with voice, text and/or even video chat.
A quick search of the Google Apps Marketplace reveals at least three web meeting tools: AnyMeeting, Zoho Meeting, and PresentOnlineNow. I've used both AnyMeeting and Zoho Meeting within the Chrome browser on my Windows 7 Pro box. The apps work well.
None of these three apps, however, work with a Chromebook.
On my first generation Samsung Chromebook, AnyMeeting provides a "Java not found" warning. The application works for sharing video, but won't let Chromebook users share their screen. So it can't really be used to present or discuss documents.
Zoho Meeting provides a "no plug-in available to display this content" message. The application won't start on a Chromebook.
PresentOnlineNow seems to not be working at all. I couldn't access their website at all the morning of June 14, 2012. But the app was still listed in the Google Apps Marketplace.
I was not successful in finding a web meeting tool that works with a Chromebook in the Google Apps Marketplace.
Web meeting apps in the Chrome Web Store?
Since I'm using a Chromebook, the next place to look is the Chrome Web Store. Any Chrome browser user can add apps from the Chrome Web Store. This makes the Web Store much more of a consumer-oriented solution.
The major concern for system administrators, however, is that these apps operate outside of the Google Apps user authentication system. Managing and monitoring access and use of these apps becomes nearly impossible. From a management perspective, I'd always recommend a solution from the Google Apps Marketplace over a solution found in the Chrome Web Store.
Even so, a quick search of the Chrome Web Store reveals at least two meeting tools: Banckle Online Meeting and Vyew. JiggyMeeting and Sliderocket also showed up, but both are limited for use as web meeting tools.
Banckle Online looks promising. I was able to create an account. But when I tried to actually start a meeting all I saw was the word "loading" with a circling arrow. It didn't work. I tried it again a couple days later and it worked, except the video from the webcam periodically froze. And there was no dial-in phone conferencing.
Vyew mostly worked. I could start a meeting, share a document and chat. But screen sharing requires Java. So screen sharing doesn't work. Vyew does offer a dial-in number for phone conferencing. So far Vyew seems like the only viable option other than a Google+ Hangout.
Jiggy Meeting provides a basic whiteboard, along with video and text chat. It works, but lacks any ability to schedule or secure rooms. Jiggy Meeting also doesn't provide any sort of document sharing.
Sliderocket, one of my favorite web-based applications, doesn't really work as a web meeting tool. It lacks voice and phone conferencing capability. You can share slides with up to 50 participants, but you'll need to provide your own phone conferencing system.
So, other than Vyew, I was not successful in finding a web meeting tool that works for presenting web meetings with a Chromebook in the Chrome Web Store.
Just three things
Here are three things Google might do to make it easier to find Apps that work on Chrome OS:
- Test Apps before adding them to the Google Apps Marketplace to see if the app works on a Chromebook or a Chromebox. Don't make Administrators test each and every Marketplace app to see if the app requires plug-ins that don't work on Chrome OS. Do the work once for all of us, please.
- Provide a way for us to find apps in the Google Apps Marketplace that work on Chrome OS devices. There are applications in the Apps Marketplace that require Java or other plug-ins that do not work on Chrome OS. Let me search for apps that work on Chrome OS. This is a search problem. I'm confident Google can fix this. I hope they do. A "Works on Chrome OS" or "Chrome OS Approved" designation might work for either the Google Apps Marketplace or Chrome Web Store. If you want to get more precise, Google could even provide some indication that an app works, but with limited functionality on Chrome OS.
- Give us a dashboard that shows the uptime for Marketplace apps: if apps don't maintain some minimum level of availability don't show them to me. Administrators need to have confidence that Marketplace apps are reliable.
The Chrome OS promise
Chrome OS moves us from an install-and-update world to a login-and-work world. Please Google make it easier for those of us who have already embraced Google Apps to find applications that work well on Chrome OS devices.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.