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Macromedia Adds VoIP to 'Breeze'

Macromedia is setting its sights on the Web conferencing sector with an eye to the future of online communication -- Voice over Internet protocol

The San Francisco Web graphics software maker on Monday updated its "Breeze" platform with application sharing, live polls, whiteboards and file transfers.

The upgrade results from Macromedia's acquisition of Presedia and that company's flagship product, Express. Former Presedia CEO Kevin M. Lynch, now Macromedia's vice president of e-learning and collaboration, said the new version is a good mix of technologies between the two companies.

"We were working on a live version for Express before we were acquired," Lynch told internetnews.com. "We already had the infrastructure in place, all that was needed was their library and some other Web services framework technologies."

While the latest Breeze release is tuned to compete with LiveMeeting from Microsoft and various services from online meeting pioneer WebEx , the platform now has added capacity to accommodate VoIP using its widely used Macromedia Flash Player as the conduit.

"Web conferencing is a $600 to 800 million per year market," Lynch said. "With the Flash Player, we've got 98 percent of the desktops out there that don't need to reconfigure or deal with messy downloads."

Lynch said the application could be customized with multiple layouts. The technology also enables content such as PowerPoint presentations to be set-up in advance, and information such as spreadsheets delivered or edited in real-time. With the updated version, recorded meetings are now indexed and searchable, along with presentations stored in the content library.

During a demonstration, Lynch showed how Breeze incorporates video, audio, documents, animations and graphics. The company is also working with third-party developers for additional controls.

The video-conferencing infrastructure systems market is gaining momentum from improvements in technology, transition to IP networks, declining prices, and the restructuring of distribution strategies.

Since 2001, the Web conferencing sector has seen steady growth. With spending on business travel estimated to pass $150 billion a year, analysts say the market is ripe for virtual communication to save companies money.

"Web conferencing is gaining a lot of traction as companies use it to streamline costs and communicate more efficiently," said Paul Ritter, program manager for collaboration research at the Yankee Group.

"While many solutions focus solely on adding value to live meetings, there is a significant opportunity for companies to achieve even greater value from platforms that provide the ability to archive and search content from previous sessions and to maintain persistent online meeting areas for regular meetings," he added.

Breeze is expected to be available in trial, hosted, and licensed versions in March. Hosting starts at $84 per concurrent seat per month. Perpetual licenses start at $22,500 for 25 concurrent seats.