The Evaluation of Centra Symposium 4.0 as a web conferencing Tool.

by Ahmet Uyar

Oct 20th, 2000

Name of Collaboration Tool: Centra Symposium 4.0

URL's to find out about it: www.centra.com

Capability or Capabilities:  Centra Symposium is basically designed to do presentations over the Internet. It is one of the four products Centra Software, Inc provides for conferencing over the Internet. It is the latest released and most capable one. The other products Centra Software, Inc provides are Centra Conference 3.0, Centra eMeeting 3.0, and CentraNow. There are two types of people in a conference room in Centra conferencing products. One is the presenter and the rest is the audience. But it is possible to assign some people from the audience as co-presenter, and they get the same privileges as the presenter except the right to assign co-presenters as listeners. Presenter sets up a meeting and a meeting ID is generated, then presenter invites the listeners to the meeting. Listeners can attend the meeting with this meeting ID. The presenter has full control over the presentation. Normally presenter talks and the audience listen, when a listener wants to ask a question, s/he raise her/his hand and when the presenter gives permission, s/he get the microphone. On the other hand it is always possible to ask questions through sending a text message. A user can send a text message to everyone anytime s/he wants. Any time the presenter can import a power point file to show others.

Framework or end-user capability: Both the presenter and listeners have an applet running in their machine. The presenter can import a power point file into the presentation and has full control over the presentation. Listeners listen the talk and they can raise a hand when they want to ask a question, they can also send a text message to anyone anytime. They can also answer some questions with yes or no. They can respond to a poll with choosing from a multiple-choice question.

Mode: Synchronous/Asynchronous: Synchronous. On the other hand, it provides recording facility. So it can also be used as an asynchronous tool. In addition, the content can also be made accessible to listeners before or after the presentation.
Shared Event/Display: It is possible to share any windows application, including entire desktop and remote servers.

Audio-Video Conferencing: Centra Symposium 4.0 provides multi-way, full-duplex IP audio conferencing. It also provides video conferencing.

 Chat Room/Instant Messenger: an instant messenger is provided. In addition, the presenter can divide the listeners into subgroups and they can communicate with each other privately.

Whiteboard: a whiteboard is provided.

Shared Documents of various types: A power point slide is shown to the audience but they cannot modify it. The presenter can draw lines, arrows, put some balls and highlights some areas. A listener can also put one of these marks when s/he gets the microphone to ask questions. In addition, it is possible to share one windows application or entire desktop.

Cost:

Server software: $25,000

One named seat: $200 (only the registered person can use it)

One concurrent seat: $2,000 (anyone can use it)

18% of net start up annually for all upgrades maintenance and support.

Requirements/Limitations: Clients do need to have a web browser and a microphone and speakers. Servers need to have Windows NT 4.0 with SP4+.

Bandwidth requirements:  28.8 kbps or faster network connection.

Number of participants: up to 250 simultaneous users.

Peer to peer / client-server: I think It can be thought as a client-server application. The presenter has full control over the presentation. The presenter decides what to present and who to give permission to talk.

Sharing: It is possible to share a windows application or entire desktop.

Requires: On the presenter machine it requires Microsoft Power Point to import the power point slides. The Microsoft Power Point is not required on the client machines. They only need to have a java capable web browser with a microphone and speakers.

Need for further development of Tool to be useful: It seems that it is a complete solution for web conferencing. No need for further development.

Experience in using it: I did not have a chance to test Centra Symposium 4.0. But We successfully used CentraNow, which is a less capable and less expensive product, to do a web conferencing to Mississippi from Florida.