Apeer Has an Eye for Media Collaboration

Entering a market dominated by well-established, well-funded players can be a daunting task. But one startup thinks there are advantages to challenging the likes of WebEx, the popular collaboration and conferencing tool bought by Cisco last year for over $3

“The more people know what’s out there, the better it is for us,” Bob Goldstein, CEO of startup Apeer, told InternetNews.com. “I would say a hundred percent of the enterprise clients we demo to are already using something so we don’t have to sell why collaboration is important. What they do say is they wished they already had (Apeer) because it offers things the others don’t.”

Goldstein said the inspiration for Apeer came from a two year book project he co-authored called “Going Visual: Using Images to Enhance Productivity, Decision Making and Profits.” Part of the research for the book involved interviewing digital media users at companies of all sizes to find out what how they used online tools and what new features they wanted.

The potential opportunity is huge. IDC projects the collaborative applications market will reach $6.3 Billion in worldwide revenues in 2008, nearly 20% of which will be conferencing applications.

Apeer, officially launches Apeer Professional on Monday as a private beta. The software is designed to facilitate digital media for collaboration. “It will fundamentally change the way professionals engage in customer interaction,” Goldstein declared.

Once you’ve loaded the Apeer client, the software is ready for action, which means users can instantly share, resize and edit photos and graphics, and share music and video in real time over the Internet in a single window. A voice/chat feature is also included. A typical application might be a marketing firm brainstorming a new ad campaign with a client. Or, it could help a project team member’s need to share materials online in real time with other, far-flung members on the project.

Playing well with others

“We like to say ‘We play well with others’ as opposed to being a replacement for WebEx or other programs like that,” said Goldstein. He noted that WebEx offers some features Apeer doesn’t, like desktop sharing to demo or run an application, but he thinks there will be plenty of reasons for users to want to use both programs on the desktop as needed.

“They don’t handle video and audio like we do with no latency,” said Goldstein. “You can leave Apeer open all day long because there is no network traffic until you actually do something.”

In an online demo for Internetnews.com, this reporter was able to easily drag photos into an Apeer window where they could be sized or edited by any of the participants in the session. Goldstein then brought in some music and video clips as well as PDF files. “People like the instant interactivity,” said Goldstein. “This goes beyond a static presentation where you’re waiting for slide 4 to show up; here you’re always synched up, there’s no latency.”

Also, Apeer sessions are by invitation only. The company said this is to ensure privacy and also that all media exchanged within Apeer is encrypted and secure.

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A viral distribution model?

Anyone can apply to join the private beta at the company’s site, which will run about a month and is available for free. After thirty days, Apeer plans to offer the finished 1.0 version on a “very reasonably-priced”
monthly subscription basis. A registered Apeer user can invite anyone into a session for free and they can all take advantage of the interactive features.

“The subscription is your identity. You can invite as many guests as you want, which is part of our viral marketing strategy,” said Goldstein, who notes the program can be launched from a thumb drive.

Apeer works on Windows and works independently of any browser. A Mac version is planned for release later this fall. Goldstein said Apeer is focused on the enterprise where he thinks his company can more quickly establish its value and revenue stream to grow further.

“Everyone asks us if we’ll do a consumer version and when the time is right, we’d love to.”

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