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Macromedia updates Web conferencing tools

Latest version of Breeze application adds VoIP capabilities and expands information-sharing tools.

Macromedia has unveiled the latest version of its online video conferencing application, adding support for VoIP, among other features.

Known as Breeze 5, the software is the company's latest effort to expand the range of applications supported by its Macromedia Flash Player software, which it says has now been downloaded more than 500 million times. The primary selling point of the technology is that people who have already downloaded the freely available Flash client software do not need to load other applications in order to use Breeze 5.

Macromedia, which is being bought for $3.4 billion by Adobe Systems, released the hosted version of Breeze 5 on Monday. The company plans to introduce a packaged version of the application sometime in the next month.

Along with support for voice over Internet Protocol--technology that allows for Net-based telephony--the latest version of the software features improved video performance, expanded document-sharing capabilities and more powerful reporting tools.

The application also adds support for full-screen video, increasing the ability of customers to adjust the size of their viewing screens.

Tom Hale, senior vice president of Macromedia's communications division, said the goal behind Breeze 5 was a more professional-grade application with increased capabilities to integrate with other desktop applications.

"What we've done here is give people a far more powerful system that can allow them to communicate and share information in a way that's easier, more function-rich and less intrusive than other conferencing tools on the market," Hale said. "We know that with these kind(s) of technologies in particular, ease-of-use has been a significant differentiator, and we think that with the ubiquity of Flash, this is a pretty attractive package, since the core technology is already on so many people's desktops."

Hale said that additions to Breeze 5 specifically make the application more powerful for instructing classes or coordinating corporate training. For instance, Breeze 5 offers expanded capabilities for managing multiple course curricula, along with new functions for interacting with students and creating online tests. Breeze 5 also has a number of "meeting templates" that are tailored to help people such as creative professionals share their work with colleagues.

Macromedia said it will announce several pricing options for Breeze 5, with different rates for specialized versions tailored for use in large conference rooms, or for organizations that want to use the application with an unlimited number of seats. A free, 15-day trial of the software is available at the company's Web site.