Today, join.me introduced their free iOS viewer, allowing users to participate in online meetings and screen sharing from their iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. A bunch of us TUAWians spent time yesterday afternoon exploring join.me in its browser-based form. join.me is a new conferencing/screen-sharing website from the makers of LogMeIn, a popular remote screen solution.
What makes join.me so compelling for us is that it takes about 5 seconds to set up, and it doesn't require registration for casual use. If you need more, it costs US$29/month or $299/year for pro-level support.
With join.me, you don't have to plan out a conference. When you decide that you need to meet, the tools are all there and ready for you. Just send around the connection URL, and you're good to go. We were able to move our normal back-channel discussions from IRC to join.me in just a couple of minutes, including the step where it downloaded a small app to our Macs.
We found join.me to be loaded with all the typical bells and whistles you expect from a GoToMeeting-style solution, including text and phone chat for participants (there's a call in number, and you just enter your meeting ID, which is generated the moment you decide to start your meeting -- so there's really no planning involved), screen control sharing and more. All of this was done with a better-than-expected GUI, with clean interface controls and an appealing layout.
The responsiveness was fantastic, even during normal business hours when you expect loads to be higher. The TUAW participants were able to watch Megan's video cam in real time from our computers, which were located across the country from her. You can easily imagine using that kind of feature for doing live presentations, although we were, actually, mostly admiring her several beautiful cats.
As we explored join.me, we thought there was a killer use case beyond the obvious one of remote conferencing. We thought we'd love to see this used in the classroom or conference center.
Imagine if you would, using the iPad client plus the join.me software plus a very, very good Wi-Fi backbone (which, honestly, is becoming less rare in those close-in situations where everyone is using a Wi-Fi connection for their laptop, for their phone and sometimes for their iPad as well, all at once). You could send your slides or your desktop directly to every participant in the room, allowing them to see support material up-close in addition to the normal overhead display. This would also allow participant question queues, back-channel chats and so forth -- Wi-Fi permitting, which is always an iffy subject.
If you're a Mac user, you might ask why use join.me instead of simply sharing your screen through iChat. There are several reasons. First, there's the cross-platform capability -- you can easily share screens whether participants are using Windows, Mac or iOS devices. Second, there's the broadcast capability, allowing you to connect to many participants at once. Third, it's free, simple and well-designed. This is a really easy tool to use and to love.