LDV Review: Airwave


LDV writers, Bryan Hellard and David Maldow, share their thoughts on the Airwave WebRTC service.

Bryan’s Thoughts
I was informed of a new WebRTC ‘product’ (I really don’t know what to call WebRTC solutions so I will call it a product for purposes of this review) called Airwave via a post on LinkedIn. They were looking for beta testers so I decided to contact them about getting an account. Almost immediately after creating my account I contacted David to see if he wanted to test it with me and of course, he was happy to oblige.

So this is a brief review of it.

First off was account creation. It was through LinkedIn, Google or Facebook accounts. I don’t like anything that links through a social account but did anyway for this test. Normally, I use a throwaway email account for things like this and it’s unfortunate when it interferes with a social account. I guess I should create a faux social media account for future purposes.

Once logged in, I was able to create a date and time for a meeting with David on their website and it sent him an email – then I received an email with David’s confirmation. Something that could have made this much better was to have the ability to add a message to the invite. I have no idea what the invite looked like. Maybe David can share that.

Once in the call, I was really surprised by the quality. Both the video quality and the audio to video sync were spot on. That doesn’t normally happen. I have nothing bad to say about the video or audio quality other than there may have been the slightest fuzz or hiss to the audio. It was faint, yet still there.

As far as bandwidth goes, we were both running pretty fast so I don’t know what would happen at lower speeds. It turns out that I had the slowest speed of the two of us at 39MBPS down and 5 up.

Data sharing
This is where I got frustrated. I was on my usual Firefox browser. I could not initiate a data/screen share in Firefox. Then the reality of WebRTC kicked in. For example: What browser are you reading this blog in? If you went to this webpage and could only read it using a certain browser would you even bother? It’s going to be really hard to get controls to work in every browser and on every platform. This renders the product near useless as far as a flowing meeting goes. If during a meeting someone has to end the call, install Chrome and get back into the call it wastes time and disrupts everyone. Had I been using Chrome, it may have worked brilliantly, but I don’t, so it didn’t.

The ‘Help and Settings’ button doesn’t work either (at least on Firefox) so I was unable to even find out what browser I should be using or find out any other useful practices.

I understand that this is a beta product and I don’t pick on products just for the sake of doing so. I also understand that Firefox has less of a market share than Chrome. It makes me wonder if content sharing works on IE.

To wrap up, the video is great and the audio is great. If they work on interoperability within browsers, the product overall is going to be great.

David’s Thoughts
Hello LDV Readers. Bryan asked if I would share a few thoughts from my perspective of this testing. First of all, I want to second some of what Bryan mentioned above. The reality is that WebRTC solutions are somewhat difficult to evaluate, because any service is limited by the nature of WebRTC itself. The service is using Google or Firefox’s endpoint, for all intents and purposes. WebRTC is amazing in that it is pre-deployed on billions of desktops, but as a video endpoint it still has some catching up to do.

The video and audio quality on WebRTC is generally good, but the little things still need to be adjusted. For example, whenever I make a WebRTC call, I have some difficulty with the audio settings. The microphone can be chosen by clicking a icon in the address bar of the browser (which is almost the last place you would look) but the speaker must be chosen by going into Windows options (not a place you want to send casual video callers). Most “true” VC clients have easily accessible audio settings where both microphone and speaker can be selected from the same menu.

But putting the limitations of WebRTC aside, and focusing on what Airwave can control, I have to say they have done a good job. Specifically I am talking about the UI outside of the call. The workflow involved in creating, scheduling, and inviting people to meetings is clean and intuitive. No IT support required here. For example, above are pics of the email invite I received from Bryan, and the Dashboard that became available after I had created my own account. It all has a professional, polished, appearance, while being simple enough for any user to start creating meetings without needing any guides or support.

Obviously, this product is still in its early stages, but it shows promise. The team behind it clearly has a good sense of UI design and workflow. What remains to be seen is whether they will add the kind of business features needed for real enterprise deployments, or whether this will be a niche product for small businesses that aren’t quite ready to make the leap into a full blown video communications environment.


About Author

Bryan Hellard, President of True View Video LLC is an industry expert in video conferencing product development. With over 14 years’ experience in video conferencing and telepresence, his duties have included product management, product design, testing and prototyping. Bryan is also a consultant for end users and video conferencing product vendors. In addition, he operates an R&D testing lab for video related products. Bryan currently serves as Director of Product Engineering and is a member of the Advisory Board for Array Telepresence. The opinions expressed in Bryan's commentary are his own, and are not representative of Let's Do Video or Array Telepresence.

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