Web meeting big enough for a stadium? Adobe Connect Pro can do that

Acrobat Connect Pro can handle up to 80,000 participants

Bigger. Less expensive. More secure. That's how Adobe Systems Inc. would describe the update to its Web meeting software and service, Acrobat Connect Pro.

It's certainly bigger: Acrobat Connect Pro 7.5 can now hold webinars or online lectures for as many as 80,000 participants, up from just 1,500 before, Adobe said Tuesday. That 's more people than most football stadiums in the U.S. can seat.

It also leapfrogs competitors such as Microsoft's Office Live Meeting 2007 (2,500 participants), Citrix Systems Inc.'s GoToWebinar and Cisco Systems Inc.'s WebEx Event Center (3,000).

Though 80,000-person webinars might be rare, Acrobat Connect Pro's expanded audience size could be useful for companies or governments holding public events, or universities hosting large freshmen lectures.

Acrobat Connect Pro can now also stream telephone-based audio to participants listening on a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) line. Connect Pro meetings is also more tightly integrated with teleconferencing services such as Premiere Global Services, Meeting One and a new partner, InterCall, Arun Anantharaman, vice president for Adobe's Connect Pro group, said in an interview.

And it now also lets hosts create white-lists of apps that participants can share during Web meetings -- part of Adobe's bid for better security. Those security and compliance features can be enhanced by companies using complementary Adobe software such as the LiveCycle content management platform.

Adobe last month began offering a cloud version of LiveCycle in addition to the server-based one.

Offered as both software and service, Acrobat Connect Pro has been growing fast despite the slack economy, as remote meetings replace face-to-face business get-togethers, Anantharaman said. Use of the Web-hosted version of Acrobat Connect Pro has more than doubled in the past year, he said. Half of Acrobat Connect Pro's revenues come from the hosted service, the other half from the on-site software.

The latest version also lets users schedule meetings from inside IBM's Lotus Notes, in addition to Microsoft Outlook.

One of the advantages Acrobat Connect Pro offers, according to Peter Ryce, a technical evangelist for Adobe, is the ubiquity of the needed Flash player, which Adobe said is deployed on nearly 99% of all PCs. Many corporate PC userss are blocked from installing additional apps or plug-ins that would be needed for competing webconferencing services, he said.

Adobe is getting Flash onto many other devices. For instance, Playstation 3 owners can use their Flash software to join a Connect Pro meeting. Adobe has also created an iPhone app for Connect Pro so users can attend Web meetings via their smartphone. The app is in the process of being approved by Apple's App Store, Ryce said.

Flash has been slammed in the past year for poor security, however. "That hasn't been lost on Adobe," Ryce said. "The rallying cry around here has been on security.... A huge investment is being made in securing Flash."

Acrobat Connect Pro allows live and cached video to be streamed during Web meetings, but high-resolution video (as by startup FuzeBox) now requires third-party plug-ins. Adobe is working on adding that feature, Ryce said.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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