By Michael Eggebrecht
Adobe Systems, bolstering the flexibility and security of its Web meeting software, has introduced new telephony features, increased capacity and more secure desktop sharing to Acrobat Connect Pro.
With Connect Pro 8.5, which is available immediately, clients can include as many as 80,000 participants in a meeting, according to Adobe. Before, a meeting could have as many as 1,000 or 1,500 with full functionality, "but at some point, the functionality doesn't make sense," Peter Ryce, technical evangelist at Adobe, said in an interview.
Intended for large, mission-critical events like investor-relations calls or the rollout of a new product, the new Webcast feature offers "just those things that make sense for a broadcast -- audio and live video, slides, maybe some other information like notes or who's speaking. But the interaction is limited to something like Q&A or polling," explained Ryce.
Flexibility is a key selling point for Connect Pro, which Adobe is now providing as a managed services offering, in addition to the previously available on-premise and hosted models. "We'll manage the servers and the updates and the service packs, but it'll be tied into your system directly," said Ryce. The new approach appeals to Connect Pro's government, pharmaceutical and financial services customers, among others, he added.
That flexibility also applies to new security features. A new white-list capability lets a customer decide which applications can be shared -- PowerPoint and Excel, for example, can be enabled, while a client can set an enterprise-wide policy preventing users from sharing Microsoft Outlook or instant messaging tools. "In financial services," noted Ryce, "they say, 'I don't mind screen-sharing, but it would be great if there's no way that my traders accidentally share their trading applications.'"
Using the new version of Connect Pro, companies can stream telephone audio to meeting participants that are listening through a VoIP connection. Adobe has also integrated the software with conferencing services provider InterCall, adding to partnerships it already has with vendors like Premier Global and Avaya.
"We think unified communications should be bridging different things that you already use, and making them seamless," said Ryce. "That's really what we're trying to do."
Connect Pro's real value is in the pervasiveness of Flash, said Ryce. Connect Pro meetings are based on Flash Player 8, which Adobe says has almost 98.7 percent penetration on Internet-connected PCs. That means a Connect Pro customer doesn't have to worry about remote workers or staffers at partner companies being able to get into a meeting. It also allows a company to design rich experiences with the confidence that they will work across platforms.
Adobe provides the infrastructure, SDKs and APIs for rich interactive experiences, said Ryce. He cited the example of software maker Intuit, which used the freely available APIs to integrate Connect Pro into its customer care workflow. When a customer care rep signs into the system, it generates a Connect meeting room. And when Intuit customers join a meeting room, a terms and conditions click-through automatically comes up, allowing the customers to share their screen.
Intuit had been using another Web conferencing product to deliver its tech support, according to Ryce. "What they found is that the first 20 minutes of every call …. was spent helping the customer install the Web conferencing software."
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