Yugma Skype Edition: Cross Platform Desktop Sharing

With the increased acceptance of the Mac platforms in the market a (a record 2.1 million sold in the fiscal 2007 fourth quarter), we are seeing rising demand for Skype Extras that run on the Mac platform. A good place to start is a desktop sharing application that is effectively agnostic to the operating system.

Yugma, who has been providing desktop sharing services for a couple of years, recently released Yugma Skype Edition, Once installed on a Windows platform simply go to Tools | Do More and "Yugma Team Collaboration" will appear on the drop-down list; on the Mac simply start Yugma Skype. A more complete description of how it works appears in Yugma’s blog.

Operations: The basic Yugma Skype Toolbar provides an overview of several features:

  • Begin Sharing: launches the sharing of your own desktop
  • The "mouse" desktop icon controls mouse and keyboard sharing with other participants in the session.
  • The double arrow icon allows you, as the host, to change the presenter who would then share his/her desktop.
  • The "page" icon launches a file sharing client.
  • The crossed sticks icon opens up a drawing toolbar to provide annotation

The Session

The session above is a Mac desktop being viewed on my Windows XP Professional laptop. Once Yugma Skype has been installed via the Skype Extras menu, the ad hoc launch process involves:

  • launching the Yugma Skype client via Skype’s Tools | Do More menu1
  • inviting the participants accessible as Skype Contacts via an "Invite Participants" window (shown below) which sends a Skype chat message with the URL,
  • inviting participants who are not Skype contacts via email address entry from the same window; the resulting email, containing a link, should arrive within a couple of minutes of sending; and
  • letting the Yugma Skype client download onto the remote participants’ PC’s and install (if this is the first Yugma Skype session on the PC)1

The host then has various options as represented by the toolbar shown above with additional options in the Action drop down menu shown on the right. Usually the host would "Begin Sharing" simply to ensure the connectivity with other parties is there. At that point the host can continue sharing or can change the presenter to one of the other participants. Other options in the toolbar are described above. One should note:

  • Users must set up the voice conferencing independently using any of the voice services shown below.
  • Sharing desktop controls, session recording, scheduling and shared file space require one of the Premium accounts beyond a 15-day trial period.
  • Additional participants may be invited during the session via the Invite Contacts option from the Action menu. The host would also need to add them to the voice conference call.
  • Currently Yugma Skype only displays the entire desktop; presenters should make sure their screen is not showing any confidential information. A "single application" feature will be forthcoming in an upgrade coming along shortly.
  • The "Shared File Space" client, while totally functional, will soon be modified to look like the usual format for an FTP client.
  • Persistent Meeting mode: you can leave a meeting open for various participants to join by keeping the same Meeting ID and communicating it to parties with whom you want to do desktop sharing in the normal course of your activities. The host can also "dismiss" participants at will.

In our tests involving two parties we found that changes on the screen, such as text chat entries and changing the focus window, were transmitted quite rapidly; only the live video of the Skype call could not keep pace with the video movement. Remote display quality is excellent; while normally it will default to an optimum size on a remote PC there is an option to optimize the remote viewer size (File | Settings) for best viewing.

The essentials:

  • Operating Systems: Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS/X 10.3 or higher, Linux; also requires Java 1.5 or later.

    • If the user does not have Java installed, a Yugma-specific Java client is included in the Yugma Skype installation1.
  • Yugma Skype runs on its own (Java) client; however, there is interaction with the web browser; either IE 6 or 7 or Firefox 2.0 as well as the Safari browser on the Mac.
  • Meeting Types: Instant, Scheduled, Recurring (through persistent meeting ID)

    • Invite participants via a Skype contact list and email to non-Skype participants
  • Packages:

    • Free: ("Unlimited and Free Forever") 10 participant plus host; basic desktop sharing, annotations, change presenter, instant sessions only; website support only; sponsor advertisements.
    • Premium: 10, 30, 100, 500 participants: $9.95/month to $89.95/month. Adds Remote User Mouse Control, Session scheduling, web session recording and playback, shared file space. Webinar features on 100, 500 participant packages. Enhanced support via email, phone and web.
    • A 15-day free Premium 10 trial is available to test the service.
    • Time Limited Promotion: until Decmber 31, 2007 Yugma will sponsor the hosting of a large group online event (up to 500 participants)
  • Voice services:

    • Currently voice operates independently of the Yugma Skype client; conference hosts have several options for setting up a conference call:
    • Skype’s inherent conference call feature (up to 10 participants via either Skype or SkypeOut);
    • and three low cost extended conferencing services (long distance charges may apply)

      • Yugma’s Free Teleconferencing service
      • HighSpeedConferencing (up to 500 participants on either Skype or landline/mobile phones) with HD Voice for Skype participants.
      • iotum’s FreeConferenceCall service (a Facebook application)
  • Private (as disclosed by host’s sharing the session ID through individual invitations);
  • Public via a Widget button or, for Premium 100 and 500 subscribers, the Yugma Webinar feature.
  • Capacity: up to 500 participants
  • Web Session Recording (Premium subscription required)
  • Access: via Skype Extras (Tools | Do More – Windows only), Skype Extras website (Windows and Mac) or from Yugma’s website (Windows and Mac editions).

Positioning: Yugma Skype is unique for its cross platform desktop sharing capability and providing a free basic desktop sharing service that can have as many as ten participants in a desktop sharing session. Session recording and file sharing options make it a more feature rich platform. Going forward they are looking to introduce features which provide single application sharing, tighter linkage to voice conferencing services and a Facebook interface as well as to migrate user interfaces currently available in the general Yugma desktop sharing application to Yugma Skype.

Strengths:

  • Cross platform desktop sharing (Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • Free basic desktop sharing for host + 10 participants
  • Rapid remote viewing updates
  • Rapidly switch presenters (shared desktop)
  • Several voice conferencing options
  • Display versatility: options to resize the remote desktop viewing window
  • Web session recording

Weaknesses:

  • Needs single application sharing option
  • Needs the ability to include voice conference information within the desktop sharing invitations
  • Lacks tight integration of Skype to voice conferencing options
  • Lack of Outlook integration for email invitations
  • File sharing interface is clumsy (to be improved in a late fall release)

Other posts in this series on collaboration tools:

1Windows Vista users may encounter several "permission" windows during installation as explained in Alec Saunders post about "Sun’s Tactical Error on Java.

Tags: Skype, YugmaSkype, Yugma, Skype Extras, HighSpeedConferencing, iotum, FreeConferenceCall, desktop sharing, Skype Conference

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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