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Adobe Makes Connect Web Conferencing Service More Flexible

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The latest version of Adobe’s Connect conferencing software for the enterprise, released Monday, has features designed to make starting and joining an online conference easier and accessible to more users, including those with mobile devices.

“It’s a very clean interface for users to get up to speed very quickly. We did a lot of user testing to get it right,” Adobe Connect evangelist Peter Ryce told InternetNews.com. “We’re seeing greater adoption by knowledge workers in the enterprise with Connect becoming a core productivity solution inside and outside the firewall.”

Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) recently updated the mobile version of Connect, which works on a wide range of mobile devices including iPhone, iPad as well as those powered by Google’s Android software and others that support Adobe’s Flash software. With Monday’s announcement, Connect mobile users will be able to participate in Connect 8-powered meetings.

A key design goal with Connect 8 was to give enterprise users more options to customize and manage Web meetings. “There are security and compliance features our enterprise customers take advantage of,” Michael Londgren, director of product marketing at Adobe, told InternetNews.com. “The DoD (Department of Defense) leverages Adobe Connect extensively and use 3-factor authentication for added security.”

Londgren said the on-premise version of Connect represents about 50 percent of the product’s revenue for Adobe. A new software development kit (SDK) supports Adobe’s Flex, Flash and ActionScript 3 programming language, letting developers create custom “pods” or online meeting areas and integrate Connect with a variety of conferencing systems.

“The concept of layouts and a drop down menu of pods makes it easy to see meeting rooms and the list of attendees,” said Ryce.

In a demo, he showed Connect 8’s redesigned interface which simplifies access to several commonly-used features. For example, all the audio controls are in one window that can be clicked away from view or brought back at a single click. Joining a Connect meeting via Webcam is also easier with the addition of a simple, “Start my Webcam” button on the screen.

“We have some customers sharing over 40 cameras simultaneously,” said Ryce.

Connect 8 also works with a variety of video conferencing systems including those by Polycom, Picturetel and Tandberg. A new feature in Connect 8 allows users to switch to a different video system even after the Connect meeting has started.

“I heard someone in a branch office say they had to drive three hours to join a video conference,” said Ryce. “We’re trying to bridge the silos created by all these different video conferencing systems.”

Andy Nilssen, a senior analyst at Wainhouse Research, said Adobe is one of several companies that’s helping to spur a rapid acceleration of Web conferencing in the enterprise.

“In addition, we’re also seeing enterprises increase expectations for their Web conferencing solution,” Nilssen said in a statement. “These organizations want to go well beyond everyday meetings and seminars to enable myriad and divergent use cases, easily extend solution capabilities with key new functionality, integrate with existing infrastructure such as video conferencing room systems, and support meeting access via a wide choice of mobile devices. All while providing meeting participants with a great user experience.”

Adobe Connect 8 is available on a per user, per year licensing model. The hosted version is being rolled out in North America this month, while the hosted version is set for release in February, 2011 in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Separately, Adobe also offers a basic screen-sharing Web conferencing application called Adobe Connect, as part of its Acrobat service.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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