Connect Professional is effectively a 360° fully featured web conferencing, live web presentation and online collaboration tool featuring a persistent virtual workspace, storage space for content and materials to be utilized, recording and full scheduling and invitation facilities.
Characteristic of Connect Professional is its extreme flexibility in interface customization as the host can literally set/up as many feature and layout configurations as the types of meetings and presentations he needs to run.
Connect Professional unique "pods" are a simple but formidable solution to such flexibility. Pods are in fact nothing else but window widgets dedicated to specific functions. So while they look as simple floating, resizable windows, they are fully functional mini/applications that can be placed on the Connect Professional available workspace in any position or size you may prefer.
There are whiteboard pods, screen-sharing pods, presentation pods and display document pods all serving a specific purpose and all ready to be used and customized visually when you need them.
From this point of view, Connect Professional remains to this day, significantly ahead of its competitors, still stuck in old visual and functional metaphors.
Only very few other conferencing tools today can provide such breadth of capabilities and as much flexibility in adapting to different situations and needs.
Here a list of Adobe Connect Professional key features:
Audio and video integration
Connect Pro integrates both two-way VoIP for all meeting attendees (the presenter can decide who to activate) as well as video conferencing without any maximum limit of concurrent video feeds. In fact, among its many custom uses it should be acknowledged Connect Pro strong capabilities on this very front.
Integrated teleconferencing gives the possibility to all attendees to use a toll-free (US-only - see and ask more info for toll free support in your specific country - while it should be there Adobe wasn't able to make it work for my private call with them when it was needed) phone number to join in with their telephone into the meeting.
Screen-sharing and Remote Control
With much improved performance finally available Connect Pro is now in the same ballpark as best-of-class GoToMeeting, and other popular competitors such as Microsoft Live Meeting, Yugma, Glance and several others. I have been literally stunned by the amazing performance Connect Professional is now capable of, as I was able to watch a full-motion video with little or no degradation in perceived frame rate that Peter Ryce of Adobe in San Francisco showcased to me via screen sharing. Keeping in mind that I am 9 time zones away from Peter and with many Internet hops in between this is really nothing short of spectacular. The new "Optimize Screen Sharing" feature in the Connect Pro Meeting menu allows users to select "Fast Images", enabling very low bandwidth consumption when screen sharing fast-moving multimedia content or video. A big applause goes to Adobe for having solved the latency and delay issues that afflicted much of the performance of Connect in the past. Additionally Connect Pro meeting participants can control the desktops and applications of other remote users. More information on Connect Pro new Turbo Screen Sharing facility can be found at: http://www.adobe.com/go/turboscreensharing and a video demo of its perfomance it is showcased in this video.
Custom Rooms with personalized meeting room layouts
Connect Pro account owners can create multiple conference meeting rooms which are "persistent" and accessible over time. They do not disappear at the end of the meeting. Such characteristic is a key trait of online collaboration solutions, which generally demand spaces in which object, tools, documents and other information artifacts are preserved over time and accessible to all of the meeting organizers. Acrobat Connect Professional meeting rooms are always easy to access thanks to personal meeting room URLs, which, as mentioned, never change. Your custom meeting room layouts and content, complete with notes and chat, are automatically saved from one meeting to the next.
Live annotation and markup, now even over live video
A long-time key feature of Connect, live annotation and markup tools have not changed in this latest release. The most impressive new thing on this front is Connect ability to annotate even live video that is being shown to the meeting attendees. Haven't seen any other web conferencing tool capable of doing either thing. A uniquely valuable feature allows you to save whiteboard overlays in persistent Acrobat Connect Professional meeting rooms, and then to add them in future meetings.
Adobe Connect Professional is accessible by users on all operating systems including Macs, Linux and Windows PCs. While functionalities and interface are not identical across platforms the differences have been further reduced making Mac support and access almost as good as on the PC side. Now Acrobat Connect Professional meetings are also fully supported for users of Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3, and 10.4, on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs.
Connect Pro integrates a powerful scheduling and invitation facility, which provides all of the necessary tools to maintain multiple meeting events under control. You can also schedule online meetings from your Outlook calendar, using the integrated address book, availability look-up and meeting recurrence features. Additionally, your meeting invitees can join your live sessions directly from within their Outlook calendars.
Recording remains a strategic technological advantage for any provider in this industry as there is so much benefit and indirect promotion to be gained by the very use of it. Connect Pro integrates a full recording facility capable of memorizing all of the action, including audio and video, taking place during a live meeting. While recordings can be for now viewed and played back only through Connect Pro, it is likely that Adobe too will need to embrace the Youtube-like "share-embed" content distribution strategy so much in demand by final users.
In reality, Connect Professional offers a lot more, by also integrating file sharing, document viewing (supporting any type of file or document), polling, moderation features, usage reports, an integrated PowerPoint-to-Flash conversion facility, moderated Q&A, multiple switchable presenters and support for video and rich media.
Acrobat Connect Professional keeps its solid position as a leader in this space. This is the model to beat. Clean, simple, non-intrusive, the Connect Professional user interface fascinates any user from the first second she sits inside a session. This doesn't mean that there is no space for improvement or for making this easier. In fact, Adobe has inherited this tool (formerly known as Breeze) from Macromedia over two years ago, but has yet to make any significant improvements to its UI. For those defending position and claiming that the UI is good as it is, please read my notes in the "Areas for improvement" section below.
With the new Turbo Screen Sharing upgrade Connect Professional has little envy left for its traditionally better performing competitors. Now performance can be so great that you can even show a live video to your remote attendees across the ocean. Quite impressive. (Read more details above)
The ability to annotate on any type of content just when you need it,
Capacity up to 1500
Few conferencing and collaboration tools can stand the load of hundreds of concurrent participants without requiring massive changes to the server setup configuration. The new Acrobat Connect Professional Pro promises reliable support for up to 1500 users. I would love to test out on the field this ability and see how Connect Professional really responds to those demanding events. When and if Adobe will provide with an opportunity to run a live event that we will co-promote we will find out what and if any surprises are to be expected under those kind of scenarios.
Connect Professional event recordings are absolutely impressive both in terms of fidelity to the original event as well as in the media packaging in which they are offered. Not only. Web pages and content accessed during a session can still be interacted with by those watching the recorded edition.
Areas for improvement
Whiteboarding and annotation tools
As much as Connect Pro serves its users with a highly capable and well designed annotation toolset, the need for users to live annotate without being forced to stop, switch mode, change tools or other unnatural imposed task is what every user expects from a live presentation tool. Notwithstanding the above, both Connect Pro and most collaboration competitors still make live annotation a frustrating activity, limiting operation space and forcing the user to use awkward markup tools which produce visual results much worse than those created by elementary school students on their blackboards.
Recordings and distribution
Recording is only as useful and good as it is my ability to use and distribute such recordings. On this front Adobe has certainly wide margins to do better by providing easier and additional ways to distribute, access and republish the outstanding quality recordings it can produce.
Ease of use
Notwithstanding the cleanliness, simplicity and elegance of the interface Connect Professional has still wide margins of improvement when it comes to make its tool easier to learn ans use. GoToMeeting remains in my opinion a pioneer and the best model to follow as of now, for understanding exactly what you need to do when yo want to make a simple tool, much easier to use. Connect professional dense text-only menus are a big obstacle in making it easy for the user to create an initial, workable mental picture of what can be done inside this tool. All menu choices look the same and when you have twenty or thirty to look through to find what you are in need of, that starts to get very frustrating.
Cost of access
Of course, not all web conferencing technologies are meant to be low-cost, free or approachable by just any-size company. Fair enough. There is got to be someone taking advantage of the corporate-enterprise market, as it is BIG and RICH. Leaving everything to Microsoft and WebEx seems wise to no-one and this is why you see wonderful technologies like this one missing out on grabbing a less lucrative but much more valuable complementary marketplace made up of professionals and small business companies. Even to get inside large organizations you need to win the favour of IT managers. So why not target with less feature-rich versions of your flagship product markets like these, which provide astounding marketing results and provide the true confidence to the larger organizations to buy into such expensive corporate licenses.
Watch a great recorded video overview of Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional and see what the environment looks like and how the basics work. Recommended viewing.
Acrobat Connect Professional Pricing - Comparison Table
Adobe Connect Professional System Requirements
Support and Help
Connect Professional FAQ
Editor's Summary Review
Connect Professional is the leading web conferencing, online collaboration and live web presentation technology available on the market today, when it comes to features, integration, flexibility and performance.
This is an all-round web conferencing tool that can be adopted by mid to large-size organizations, educational institutions and any other company with a sufficient budget to afford the steep Connect Professional price tag (starts at $375/month for 5 users). Yes, if compared with some of its direct market competitors such as WebEx and Microsoft Live Meeting, Connect Pro pricing is set on solid grounds. But when it comes to expand the adoption and presence of this wonderful technology to the small business world and to professionals who could best reap its potential Connect Pro falls short in my view of adopting a more far-reaching marketing vision.
Less feature-rich versions of Connect Professional could be made available to a larger public with more affordable price tags, as the competition that comes from smaller companies and simpler tools is ever more aggressive and effective. It is only educators, theoreticians and academics that still pretend collaboration and conferencing tools that have every single feature you may want to think of. These very people are often also the worst, most boring and incapable presenters you may encounter. Great presenters, successful business executives and talented trainers all need a fraction of the tools often requested by these "experts", who know a lot, but have yet to learn how to communicate it effectively.
Web presentation sessions have a typical setup requiring PowerPoint delivery, annotation, VoIP, text chat and little more. Why not offer a dedicated solution at a more affordable price? Same for collaborative sessions requiring screen-sharing, text-chat- VoIP-teleconferencing and little more.
It is in this direction, in my humble opinion, that Adobe could best maximize its marketing potential with Connect Professional... a wonderful tool, still reserved only for the richer and more corporate section of the marketplace.
What do you think?
Original article written by Robin Good for Master New Media and entitled "Web Conferencing, Online Collaboration And Live Web Presentation In One Tool: Acrobat Connect Professional Reviewed"