Team Apart is an online meeting space and collaboration tool launched in private beta today. The software includes a browser-based video/audio conference, a text notepad, and a whiteboard for drawing. All of these options are updated in real-time for conference attendees, and the conference space can persist over time.
Obvious competitors for Team Apart are the larger Web conferencing solutions like WebEx and GoToMeeting. But considering the document side of Team Apart and the fact that its work spaces stick around, the startup most similar is AppJet's EtherPad.
As best we can tell, Team Apart looks like it has the right balance of simplicity and features necessary to enable real collaboration among small teams. There might be some cross-pollination between a whiteboard focused on free-form drawing and the notepad, but both are useful tools for augmenting an online meeting.
The real potential for snafus in Team Apart is on the video and audio side. Since all aspects of the software are focused on being real-time, delays and poor quality in that arena could seriously curtail the platform's usefulness.
How It Compares
If we were running a small distributed team (wait, we are, aren't we?) we'd choose something browser-based like Team Apart over WebEx or GoToMeeting. It's not that these solutions don't work for business needs, but they are often slow to load even on fast connections. Their reliability makes them great for presentations and client meetings, but for in-company collaboration, being lightweight is also important.
If you're making a decision today however, you're out of luck unless you can get your hands on a beta invite. Right now the closest thing to what Team Apart is offering is EtherPad. The big drawback for EtherPad is that it doesn't have video and audio, so it's for collaboration rather than meetings.
Combing a simple trio of video, text, and drawing is a solid choice for Team Apart. For distributed teams seeking dead simple and fairly comprehensive meeting tools, we'd file away Team Apart as something to explore in future.
Update: Team Apart has kindly offered a limited number of beta invites for our readers, which you can get here.