Macromedia is expanding its Breeze online presentation tool into a fully fledged web conferencing product.
The new release, scheduled for March, will add features such as whiteboarding, polling and application sharing.
More than 98% of internet users already have Macromedia Flash installed, removing the need for an additional download to use the Breeze web conferencing product, setting it apart from competitors.
Moving into the web conferencing arena is a departure from Macromedia's traditional software business, said Paul Ritter, programme manager for collaboration research at The Yankee Group.
"Entering the web conferencing marketplace is not a guaranteed slam dunk. Macromedia will have to do significant marketing and advertising to let the world know that they are in this space," he added. "However, I do believe they have a chance to compete because of some of the features and functionalities of Breeze that are different."
Macromedia is promoting the software's ability to archive presentations for on-demand playback, as well as a searchable library that will provide easy access to existing content, custom online meeting room layouts and an extensible architecture that will allow users to make Breeze part of their own infrastructure, such as corporate portals.
The web conferencing space is dominated by a couple of large players, with WebEx leading the pack, but has dozens of small players. The worldwide market reached about $480m in revenue in 2003 and is expected to grow to about $700m in 2004, according to Yankee Group estimates.
Macromedia will offer Breeze conferencing as both a hosted service and a software product that business users can install and run themselves. The hosted service will cost $84 per concurrent seat per month, and a perpetual licence for the software starts at $22,500 including 25 concurrent seats.
North America is the most important market for Breeze and the product is available in English only. However, Macromedia will sell it to interested international customers.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service