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CU-SeeMe reaches version 3

Responding to Microsoft and Intel, White Pine Software prepares the next releases of its videoconferencing software.

Responding to the invasion of its home turf by industry giants Microsoft and Intel, White Pine Software (WPNE) is preparing the next releases of its CU-SeeMe video conferencing software for clients and servers.

The popular CU-SeeMe freeware was once synonymous with videoconferencing. White Pine's efforts to take the product commercial--not to mention from black and white to color-- have earned the company more than a million users as well as a crush of competition from larger players.

On March 31, company representatives cited such competition plus a month-long delay in shipping CU-SeeMe 3.0 as factors for expected first-quarter losses that the company should announce in early May. Since a $27 million IPO in October, the company's stock has dropped from 9 to around 3.

The new client version will be for Windows 95 and NT only, at first. It will feature a revamped user interface with a phone book and directory that allows users to check who's currently online. The phone book will let users send each other V-Cards, email versions of business cards with names, contact information, and photos.

CU-SeeMe 3.0 also incorporates Microsoft's ActiveMovie interface so that video windows can be resized without limit. Expanding the window will degrade the picture quality but not the frame rate, according to White Pine spokeswoman Tracy Specht. The company hopes the improvements spur corporate adoption of CU-SeeMe. Currently, 80 percent of the product's sales go to home and educational users, Specht said.

Users of the old black-and-white freeware version won't be able to communicate with users of the color version unless color users transmit in black and white.

The company is also preparing a new version of its reflector, server software that allows multiple users to join a single conference. The new reflector will allow both CU-SeeMe and third-party software users to link up.

CU-SeeMe 3.0 will be posted Wednesday as a free beta version on the White Pine Web site. It goes final the first week of May and will cost $69 per client. Packs of 5, 10, 25 and 50 will also be available, at prices as yet unannounced.