Mainstay is currently shipping ChitChat, a network-based application that enriches text-based chat with voice and graphics. ChitChat enables virtual conferences that bring Macintosh users together, regardless of their physical locations, thus saving time and travel. In addition, ChitChat's client-server design supports large groups of users, resulting in increased value as the number of participating users grows.
ChitChat allows participants to communicate by entering text, speaking, and sending images to others in a conference. Transmitted text from conference participants is displayed in a continuous scrolling window, while graphics, sent in the background, appear simultaneously in a separate image window. Voice is broadcast to all participants. Graphics can be sent by simply pasting into the image window, or by dragging and dropping a file from the Macintosh Desktop. Still images from digital cameras such as the Connectix QuickCamR and Apple QuickTakeR can be pasted into the image window during a conference giving users the functionality of a video-conference without the typical high bandwidth requirements. Ad hoc discussions benefit from graphic input from many participants.
ChitChat offers virtually anyone the ability to communicate in real-time-regardless of the network speed, modem speed, or type of Macintosh used for the client or server. ChitChat is based on the principle that no network user should be frustrated because of hardware or bandwidth limitations. A common denominator of text provides universal access. ChitChat currently requires an AppleTalk-based network used over LocalTalk or Ethernet, and supports remote connections via Apple Remote Access (ARA). Voice can even be used successfully over ARA with a 14.4 kbs modem. An Internet version is planned for later this year.
Users can initiate or participate in multiple conferences (with the same or a different set of people) at the same time. An off-site user can call in to the main site and resolve several issues involving different groups of people at once without telephone holds or playing phone tag.
ChitChat offers a freely-distributable client and a zero-maintenance server. The freely-distributable client application is installed on each participant's desktop or laptop Mac and can also be used remotely via ARA and a modem. The client can be run in the background on a user's Mac with as little as 512 KB of system memory. The ChitChat server can be set up on any Macintosh connected to the AppleTalk network. A file server is not necessary. The server requires no administration and can be run with as little as one Megabyte of system memory.
Other features include the ability to save a text file (complete with sequential voice and graphic markers), a PICT file of the graphics window, or print a hard copy of any conference. With the click of a button a user can obtain a list of conference participants or obtain a list of potential invitees. The PowerType button displays predefined text from a drop down list. PowerType text can be sent, edited, and labeled at any time. Each client maintains their own personal list of PowerType phrases.
ChitChat can be used by anyone with a Mac network for serious or social interaction. "ChitChat is the first of several new communications applications we've been working on that address the socialization, coordination, presentation, and training markets," says Mainstay president Tom Nalevanko. "This first product [ChitChat] emphasizes social interaction. It's not just fun, it brings team spirit back to the workplace. Our staff is spread out all over the world, and ChitChat is the first communications tool we've used that's really brought a sense of camaraderie back into the workplace."
ChitChat is currently available. The introductory price for a five user ChitChat server is $99. Introductory pricing for 10-, 25-, and 50-user servers is $179, $349, and $495, respectively. The ChitChat client is freely distributable. ChitChat is available directly from Mainstay.
A time-limited demo version is available.
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