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DataBeam opens conferencing to millions

DataBeam posts the final version of Net.120 Conference Server 2.0, which coordinates data conferences and application sharing for multiple users using ordinary Java-enabled Web browsers.

Taking control of another user's applications over the Net sounds spooky, but DataBeam says online conferencing might save companies the expense of a plane ticket.

Today, DataBeam announced it has posted the final version of Net.120 Conference Server 2.0, a server program that coordinates data conferences and application sharing over the Internet with multiple users. Because Net.120 works with ordinary Java-enabled Web browsers, millions of users will be able to participate in online conferences using DataBeam's new product without downloading any new software.

That could help give Internet conferencing a much-needed shot in the arm since the mass of users running Netscape Communications' Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer will, with mutual consent, be able to view slide presentations and share word processors without a special client. Software vendors have touted conferencing applications as a way of reducing the hassle and cost of travel, but the market was initially slow to take off because most conferencing applications and networks were not compatible with each other.

"It moves conferencing to tens of millions of potential end points," said Jim Clifton, server product manager at DataBeam.

Although most Web browsers can participate in Net.120 conferences, the server also works with data conferencing applications like Microsoft's NetMeeting, Intel's ProShare, and any other application based on the T.120 Internet data conferencing standard.

Analysts said that conferencing over the Internet still suffers from the unpredictability of the global network, which can cause maddening delays during application sharing.

"Once you do this from remote sites, you start dealing with bandwidth problems and usability issues," said Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies. "What [DataBeam] is doing is a step in the right direction. Ultimately, you would want to see ISPs support this kind of service."

Net.120 Conference Server 2.0 is available for Windows NT and Solaris. Pricing for one server with support for eight concurrent users begins at $1,295.