The latest updates to Callwave's distributed conferencing platform, Fuze Meeting, have added a rather dramatic new feature that's perfect for iPad 2 owners (not to mention Android 'Honeycomb' tablets like the Motorola Xoom and older 'Froyo' devices): multi-party video conferencing.
Meeting hosts who subscribe to the company's Pro plan (US$69 per month for unlimited meetings with up to 100 attendees) get the new face-to-screen capability. Video conferences support up to 10 simultaneous participants on the browser-based client (fewer simultaneous streams on mobile devices), and the quality tops out at 720p HD while adjusting down as needed for bandwidth limitations.
We've covered Fuze before, and the core iPad app has kept its full feature set moving forward into the video conferencing realm. You can still share content directly from the iPad app (in fact, it's gotten easier, now that iOS 4.x multitasking means you don't have to relaunch the app if you switch into Dropbox to grab files). If you want to launch your camera, it's one tap to start the video conference, then a second tap to turn your direct view on. Image quality is comparable to FaceTime, although the default video window is much smaller.
You can also use VoIP directly on the iPad to join Fuze conference calls, saving you from juggling phone and pad as you participate in the meeting. You can use the Fuze app's laser pointer tool to highlight elements within PPT, image/PDF, or video content as the meeting rolls along. Of course, the desktop/browser Fuze client has evolved along with the new features, and it also supports the 10-party video chat feature.
Over a couple of days' worth of testing of the new Fuze on a loaner iPad 2, there were a few hiccups with camera activation and meeting participants not being able to connect to the audio conference on the first try; these may have been due to the use of a beta meeting server while the video features were being rolled out to the production infrastructure, but we'll see how things shake out over the next week post-launch. By and large, the video and content sharing worked as expected; Fuze has submitted an updated iPad app that will squash a few bugs and also add support for viewing five streams of incoming video at once. The iPhone version of Fuze Meeting that supports video conferencing is also coming up soon.
You can try a free version of Fuze Meeting -- sans video conferencing support, sadly, but with room for up to three meeting participants -- by signing up at the company's website. Video conferencing capability requires a Pro plan, and the current introductory price of $69/mo or $662/year will be going up soon. There's bound to be competition for this functionality soon (FaceTime Pro? Skype for iPad for real?), but for the moment, Fuze has got it going on.