Macromedia will boost its Breeze online presentation and training tool in September, with the addition of Breeze Live, which turns the system into an online conferencing system.
Breeze consists of a number of components. On the server side, the Breeze Presentation platform acts as a central file repository, storing multimedia presentations in Flash format and using XML to build searchable indexes of their content.
On the client side, a plug-in for Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation authoring application allows users to synchronise audio commentaries with PowerPoint slideshows, and to save the resulting multimedia presentation to the Breeze file store.
Others can watch and listen to the slideshow and commentary later, using a Flash-enabled web browser.
The Breeze Presentation platform can be extended with server-side software modules. The Breeze Training module adds the ability to create courses from a series of presentations, to enroll students on courses, to administer quizzes and to track students' progress.
With it, anyone who can build a PowerPoint presentation can create and manage an online training course, without the need for a team of web developers, according to Leesa Lee, product manager for Breeze.
The Breeze Live module allows trainers to manage virtual classrooms in which they control the pace of the course. It adds support for webcams and screen sharing, and allows a group of trainers to hold "offstage" discussions or prepare presentations offstage before showing them to students.
Using the Training and Live modules, training and human resources departments in large and medium-sized companies can speed the spread of knowledge across the enterprise while cutting costs, Lee said.
The Breeze Live server module will go on sale in North America in September. Macromedia will also offer it as a hosted service.
Pricing for the Breeze Live module will depend on the configuration and the number of seats. The Breeze Presentation platform costs from $20,000 (£12,304), and adding the Training module will double the price.
The Breeze plug-in only works with Windows versions of Microsoft's PowerPoint application, but support for other presentation authoring tools may be added later, she said.
The hosted option for Breeze Live moves Macromedia into the marketplace for web events such as online seminars, or "webinars", and conferences or collaborative workplaces.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service