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Citrix tests Web conferencing service

The company will compete with WebEx, Microsoft and others in the increasingly crowded market for services to deliver online presentations.

Citrix Online hopes to build on its popular GoToMyPC service for remote computer access with a new Web conferencing program.

The company, a division of networking software seller Citrix Systems, plans to begin offering a free preview version of GoToMeeting on Monday. The service enables customers to present PowerPoint slides, run applications and handle basic collaboration tasks over the Web.

The service will compete in an increasingly crowded market dominated by Web conferencing specialist WebEx. The niche has drawn attention from major software makers such as Microsoft and Macromedia.

Citrix Online will distinguish its service partly through simplicity, said Klaus Schauser, chief technical officer for the Santa Barbara, Calif., company. Instead of loading the service up with complex interactivity and polling features, GoToMeeting will focus on what actually happens in meetings: talking and looking at PowerPoint slides.

"We're focusing on everyday meetings--this is not a Webinar product; this is not a training product," Schauser said, making the comparison with online seminar products. "Our motto has always been that 'simpler is better,' even though there are some pretty sophisticated capabilities in the product. We can very quickly go from something that's presentation-only to something that's more interactive."

The simplicity goal will also extend to pricing. Citrix Online will charge a flat monthly fee based on the number of simultaneous users, rather than the per-minute pricing typical of the market.

Matt Reid, a senior vice president for product marketing at Citrix Online, said the goal is to make online meetings an everyday choice to improve productivity and cut down on travel and other expenses.

"People like the technology around Web conferencing--they just aren't using it as much as they could," Reid said. "And the product needs to actually get used to generate the savings. That's why we really want to make sure it's affordable for the masses to use."

The paid version of GoToMeeting is set to launch in July. The basic service will cost $49 per month, or $468 per year.

Citrix Online is mainly know for GoToMyPC, a product it acquired from specialist Expertcity that allows any PC to be accessed remotely over the Web.