British Startup to Launch Pro Web Collaboration Service

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A British startup is preparing to launch an enterprise version of a Web-based collaboration service with a screen-sharing feature that lets a person interact with an application on someone else's computer.

The company, called Yuuguu, means "fusion" in Japanese. It combines several collaborative features aimed at making it easier for employees to work on projects, hold online meetings and communicate, said Anish Kapoor, who founded the company with Philip Hemsted.

Yuuguu is entering a field with well-established competitors such as Citrix's GoToMeeting, Microsoft's Live Meeting and Cisco's WebEx.

Yuuguu's strengths are its ease of use, said Kapoor, who spoke on the sidelines of the Future of Web Apps conference on Thursday. Also, a basic version of the service is being offered for free for up to 30 users with no time limit, which beats other trial offers from bigger players.

The primary feature is its screen-sharing. People who wants to share their screen download a small client program. Others who want to view the desktop of that computer just need a Web browser running Flash and the appropriate log-in details. Yuuguu works with Windows, Apple's OS X or Linux operating systems, and users of different platforms can interact.

A remote user can also be granted the right to control the application on that desktop, such as a SAP program or an Oracle database, Kapoor said. A button allows the person whose PC is being controlled to disconnect or connect remote users.

Other features include secure IM (instant messaging). Yuuguu's Web-based IM program is compatible with Google's Talk. Contacts from both services can be added into the other's application. Yuuguu also offers a phone conferencing service with a per-minute charge which in effect subsidizes Yuuguu's free version.

Screen-sharing and IM data is encrypted using 128-bit SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). Yuuguu doesn't store screen-sharing information on its servers but can archive instant messages for compliance purposes, Kapoor said.

In the next month or two, Yuuguu will launch an enterprise version that allows more people to join plus other features such as IM archiving. It will cost around US$10, or £5 per month per user, Kapoor said, with volume user discounts available.

So far, about 100,000 individuals are using Yuuguu's free version. Half of those users work in companies with more than 500 employees, and the other half in smaller organizations. Some of those companies are also using services such as WebEx but supplementing it with Yuuguu, Kapoor said.

Perhaps in contrast to other technology companies, Yuuguu sees the global economic downturn as beneficial. Companies are tightening budgets and looking for ways to be more productive online to cut back on travel.

"For us, oddly enough, that's a very good opportunity," Kapoor said.

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