I recently had the opportunity to test out the Clickshare group screensharing system, sent to me by Noel Bellen of Barco. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the premise is fairly simple: sharing screens is harder than it should be. If you’ve ever sat in a corporate conference room and watched as someone struggled to find which of the cables (Thunderbolt? HDMI? VGA? DVI? DisplayPort?) fit into their laptop, you’ve questioned two things:
1. Why is this so hard?
2. How did the human race survive?
Once you get the cable of choice plugged in, you hope it continues to work. On top of that, if you need to change laptops for any reason, you get to do the entire dance again.
Barco’s ClickShare promises to make the process less difficult. When you get the unit, it’s shipped with comparatively few directions, making it a fairly decent challenge to anyone not already technically savvy. Once you install the base station, get it hooked up to a display, and turn it on, the process gets slightly easier, but it definitely needs more and better documentation in the box.
Once set up, it’s effectively a new Wi-Fi point on your network. To share a screen, you plug one of several USB remotes into the laptops that will be presenting, or connect a mobile device via Wi-Fi to the ClickShare. Push the red button on the USB remote and you’re live, or transmit files from Dropbox on your mobile.
That part in and of itself is handy. It simplifies getting a meeting started, and you can even run network screen sharing apps like GoToMeeting on your laptop while still transmitting to the ClickShare, for combination webinars and in-person seminars. Got more than one presenter or machine to share information from? Tap the button and the screen shifts instantly to the other display. Super handy. I’ve used it with my iPhone and laptop and it works well for sharing files. One limitation on the mobile version is that you have to present files – PowerPoints, PDFs, etc. It doesn’t present a live view of what’s happening on the mobile device.
Now, where this little device is going to shine isn’t the corporate boardroom per se, though it certainly is handy and easy for people to understand once you get it set up. No, where the Barco ClickShare is going to shine is at conferences, because inevitably there’s the guy (and yes, sometimes it’s me) who brings his or her own laptop, iPad, mobile, etc. or the laptop provided by the venue or conference organizers blows up or can’t project. There’s the inevitable “my slides are 4:3 and the display is 16:9” to contend with as well.
The ClickShare would be ideal for conference organizers because it streamlines much of that, and with multiple USB remotes, one speaker can be on stage presenting while the other is prepping their laptop. Because the device is wireless, the laptop doesn’t have to be with the AV guys in the back of the room, thus causing the clicker to either not work or rely on the manual clicker (which does nothing but turn on a “next slide” lightbulb in the back of the room, the remote I despise the most). The ClickShare would let presenters sit anywhere in the room they wanted, run their decks from their laptop, and not have to spend 25 minutes rewiring the room just for their slides to work.
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