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Macromedia starts meter on Web conferencing

New pay-as-you-go pricing for Breeze Live service is meant to attract small businesses.

Macromedia is set to announce a new pay-as-you-go plan on Tuesday for its Breeze Live Web conferencing service.

In addition to existing plans that allow businesses to pay for the service by annual subscription and per-seat licensing, Macromedia will now offer a la carte service for 32 cents per minute.

The new plan is intended to make the service more attractive to small businesses with light and irregular collaboration needs, said Tom Hale, Macromedia's general manager for Breeze.

"We've primarily been targeting customers at the enterprise level," Hale said. "Now we want to have a plan that enables businesses of all sizes to take advantage of Breeze."

Macromedia introduced Breeze Live last year as part of a broad effort to expand the use of its Flash format for presenting Web content. The service and Macromedia's Breeze software allow workers to present PowerPoint slides and other content through a Web browser and to jointly work on documents.

Tight corporate travel budgets and proliferating broadband connections have helped spur a boom in Web conferencing in the past few years. Specialist WebEx continues to lead the market and takes in 67 percent of all Web conferencing revenue, according to the latest survey by market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

New entrants, such as Macromedia and Microsoft's Live Meeting service, are looking to grab a chunk of the market, however, by emphasizing factors ranging from integration with desktop applications to cheap audio conferencing support.

Microsoft recently introduced several pricing plans for Live Meeting, including a by-the-minute option, in a similar bid to attract small businesses. WebEx already offers pay-as-you-go plans.

Macromedia's pitch for Breeze is based on its reliance on the Flash player, a browser plug-in already installed on more than 90 percent of Internet-connected PCs. Other Web conferencing services require specialized client software.

"We want to work the way people are comfortable working," Hale said. "Everybody knows PowerPoint, everyone has a browser, and we're allowing people to do a lot of new things within that framework. You don't have to reinvent the wheel and learn a whole new interface."