IntroConvoq ASAP Pro 2.0 is the most affordable Web-conferencing program on the market. For $250, you get one year of unlimited online meetings with as many as 15 participants per session. By comparison, leading competitor WebEx charges $375 per month for five-user meetings--albeit with extra perks such as 200 toll minutes for audioconferencing. ASAP Pro allows videoconferencing and VoIP audio, two features missing from the comparably priced Citrix GoToMeeting, and offers a free, two-user version (which none of the competitors offer) called ASAP Express. ASAP Pro does contain a few weaknesses, however. It lacks a whiteboard for brainstorming, its VoIP audio quality often sounded poor in our tests, and it can't import contacts directly from Microsoft Outlook. Still, if you don't need whiteboards or high audio quality, ASAP Pro 2.0 is a solid, affordable Web-conferencing program, useful in many small-business environments. When it comes to setup, ASAP Pro 2.0 has a slight edge over its competitors. Like Macromedia Breeze, another Web-conferencing app, ASAP Pro 2.0 uses Macromedia's Flash technology, which most people already have enabled through their Internet browsers. As a result, meeting attendees probably won't have to install a thing to attend your session--a boon for technophobes intimidated by Web conferencing in general. By comparison, first-time GoToMeeting, Microsoft Live Meeting, and WebEx attendees must install a client program before joining a meeting. That said, hosts or presenters will need to install the ASAP Pro client, a small applet that uses only 10MB of hard disk space. Our setup was routine and took only a few minutes.
The ASAP Pro 2.0 interface is logical and easy to learn. Major functions, such as sharing an application or enabling videoconferencing, are accessible via menus and icons at the top of the screen. While ASAP Pro lets you import contact names directly from major instant messengers, such as AOL, MSN, and Yahoo, transferring e-mail addresses from Microsoft Outlook to ASAP Pro is downright tedious. For example, you must export your Outlook contacts in the CSV (comma-separated values) format, then use Excel to edit out extraneous information (anything other than e-mail addresses), and finally copy and paste the data into ASAP Pro.
ASAP Pro 2.0 makes it a cinch to invite attendees. If the meeting is in the future, ASAP Pro has a Schedule A Meeting screen. If the meeting is now, click the Meet Now button to begin a session, then select the Invite button to pick participants from your contacts list. Either way, each attendee receives an e-mail or IM message with a meeting link.Despite its low-end price, ASAP Pro 2.0 offers Web-conferencing features that rival its high-end competitors, such as software-based VoIP audioconferencing and videoconferencing for face-to-face sessions--most of which Breeze, Live Meeting, and WebEx also offer. Our experiences with these features, however, were mixed. While the video quality was generally smooth and only slightly grainy in our informal broadband tests, the VoIP audio sounded choppy and often inaudible. Even after tweaking the audio settings to maximize microphone and audio bandwidth, the sound quality was still far inferior to that of an old-fashioned telephone call.
ASAP Pro 2.0 provides some clever innovations, though. For example, it lets you embed a link within a Web page, allowing people to schedule impromptu meetings with you simply by clicking the link. And we liked the Meet ASAP feature that determines when your contacts are online, then pings them via instant messenger when everyone is available to meet.
Overall, ASAP Pro 2.0 is a good deal, given its low price, well-crafted interface, and solid feature set. Naturally, there's room for improvement. WebEx, for example, allows up to four images on the screen. ASAP Pro currently offers only point-to-point video, which shows your image and one other participant's. A whiteboard, like that found in Breeze, would be also helpful for brainstorming sessions, and better Outlook integration is a must.
If you're interested only in one-to-one meetings, there's a two-user, free version called ASAP Express. ASAP Express doesn't, however, let you schedule meetings; your contact must already be online.
Convoq's technical support for Convoq ASAP Pro 2.0 was above average in our tests. The company answered our phone and e-mail queries promptly and politely; we got an answer to one e-mail question within two hours. At the bottom of the e-mail, the tech even included her direct work number and suggested we call with any follow-up questions. We did call--about a separate tech issue-- and left a voicemail message; we received a call back within five minutes. We haven't seen such prompt and attentive customer service in a long while. Bravo, Convoq. Convoq offers live technical support Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, except on holidays, hours that are conveniently posted on the company Web site.
ASAP Pro includes free e-mail and phone support, but users of the free Express version are limited to the online knowledge base, FAQs, and user forums available on Convoq's Web site. ASAP Pro's browser-based help section is well organized and easy to browse.