Macromedia Inc.s Breeze is a flexible, affordable way to create remote presentations and training material. Released earlier this month, Breeze is priced at $84 per user per month for the hosted version, which is a little less expensive than competitor WebEx Communications Inc.s WebEx MeetingCenter. A perpetual-license version of Breeze is priced starting at $25,000, which is in line with the cost of rival products such as IBMs Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing.In eWEEK Labs tests of the hosted version, Breeze handled presentations well, complete with polling, videoconferencing and interactive chat. Its basic administrative tools will aid companies that havent invested in Web conferencing and training. Managing the hosted version can be cumbersome because administration generally requires drilling down with the administrative screens or following wizards to perform tasks. Wed also like more flexibility when creating custom reports from within the management interface. Attendees and presenters need only a browser with Version 6.0.5 or later of the Flash player, but to really get the most from Breeze, content creators should download the Breeze plug-in for Microsoft Corp.s PowerPoint. The plug-in helps deliver a full Flash experience from within the presentation, with audio and effects tightly choreographed. The plug-in let us add quizzes and surveys when creating a presentation, instead of forcing us to add them on the fly during a presentation. Companies that want to use Breeze should plan for at least minimum training for using the plug-in and the overall system. Users must be aware that unless they plan on screen-sharing a PowerPoint presentation, creating and running a meeting on the fly isnt a realistic expectation. It generally took a few minutes for Breeze to process a presentation as part of the publication operation in our tests. Notification that a presentation is finished, along with the URL, arrives via e-mail to the content publisher. The Breeze interface contains customizable Pods, elements that manage the interaction between presenter and audience. As presenters, we liked being able to switch modes, from giving a presentation to sharing a screen, with a single mouse click. Building poll questions on the fly is simple, as is integrating new Pod elements. Flash-based movies and video can be integrated directly into a presentation. Companies can develop and upload Pods and integrate data from other systems using an XML API. Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For companies that have invested in the Flash development environment, Breeze presents a good way to extend that investment to interactions with customers and business partners.