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Centra pulls together conferencing

The software maker's new Web collaboration package will integrate its Centra Symposium with a new no-installation client called Centra Conference.

    Centra Software thinks good things come in two.

    The Lexington, Massachusetts-based software maker will next week debut its new Web collaboration package, Centra 99, which integrates its Centra Symposium with a new no-installation client called Centra Conference. Both will share a single login, administration, reporting, and content management on a common server, the company said.

    The new Centra Conference Web client supports all major platforms and offers real-time application viewing, streaming slides, real-time polling, and interactive applications for conducting text chat.

    "It's a Java applet and there is no need to download plug-ins or software," said Andrew Wolff, director of product marketing at Centra.

    Java-based Centra Symposium, first released in July 1997, includes Web-based interactive audio conferencing, several application sharing components, polling, survey and feedback features, white board and text chat, virtual breakout rooms, threaded discussion applications, and an IP multicast option.

    It comes with a body language feature that allows online participants to raise their hands, respond yes or no, and provide anonymous feedback to the instructor. It also includes a choreography feature that lets instructors pass a "microphone" indicating when students can speak to the class or write on a whiteboard, and a quiz designer that lets companies quickly build tests that are automatically graded with instant results given to the instructor and students.

    The combination of the two clients in Centra 99 allows users to develop a host of collaboration event formats, like marketing campaigns, sales initiatives, training and education seminars, and conferencing, the company said.

    "The main thing about this release is that it continues to expand the focus for Centra to provide many types of collaborative applications on the Web," said Geoffrey Bock, senior analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group. "They're providing a complete environment for live collaboration for the Intranet."

    Priced at $25,000, Centra 99 is scheduled to ship in April. Existing customers will receive Centra 99 upgrades at no charge.