AdobeMedia I – Breeze 5

AdobeMedia is what we are calling the merged entities of Adobe and Macromedia which will fuse together in the Fall of this year. These are the two most powerful and technically advanced multimedia software players in the world. Its not a done deal – third parties may object. And well they might. Of the top 5 multimedia players in the world 3 belong to AdobeMedia : 1 – Flash, 3 – Adobe PDF, 5 – Shockwave.

But Adobemedia is not alone by a long shot in trying to take the multimedia market high ground. Apple has started to issue more and more own brand multimedia creative and development software of the highest quality – Final Cut Series, GarageBand, Keynote and iLife to go along with its QuickTime player. And of course Microsoft is building a whole Media PC infrastucture, new Longhorn API plus its Windows Media Player getting substantial improvements in features and multi-media carrying capacity. AdobeMedia will not have smooth sailing into any possible Port of Multimedia Hegemony.

Thus the announcement of Breeze 5, the first major software introduction for AdobeMedia is very interesting. The Macromedia branch of AdobeMedia has had development of Breeze on a very fast track – and the earlier versions, though good, always seemed to have a few missing pieces. Breeze 5 nears feature completion and at the sametime offers an important multimedia marketing thrust – AdobeMedia will be offering both shrink wrapped and hosted services versions of the product.

I should have said that in the reverse order.

I cannot find the price for the standalone version of Breeze. But I can find the the Breeze free trial offer which is linked to the hosted version. So I find that for $375/month for 5 users unlimited usage I can have Breeze. But if I want the tires … uhhh .. audio and video its another $99/month. I can reconfigure usage with discounts at 10, 25 and 100s of users. Also I can overuse and take on a flat rate charge. The free trial will give some idea of quality of service; we have not tested this at all as Breeze 5 was just introduced this morning.

Full Web Multimedia Functionality

breezeArch

Breeze originally was a super over-the-Web presentation product that took advantage of the Flash Player and increasingly the Flash Communication Server. The next versions of Breeze added Meetings and simple eLearning/quizzing capabilities and better streaming. The version before Breeze 5 added better collaboration and more live meeting facilities. Version 5 improves all of these in the following ways:

Breeze Meeting – without use of complicated plugins, delivers real-time meetings and seminars that anyone can access instantly, through any web browser. It provides “unparalleled support for sharing rich content, including streaming audio, video, and software simulations (think Captivate), and also enables multi-point video conferencing. Breeze customizable meeting room configurations and all content are automatically saved and available for the next session, dramatically reducing preparation time for recurring seminars, team meetings, and sales presentations.” The key to Breeze Meetings is the levels of customization open to both developers and users: from none to simple for the busy beaver through to fairly comprehensive for teams needing special services.

Breeze Presenter
– provides an extensively integrated PowerPoint presentation extension that provides “authoring of narrated, self-paced elearning courses and on-demand presentations, and provides unique support for high-impact content through adaptive streaming of audio and video”. The key is direct inttegration into PowerPoint adding key conference audio/video and presentation delivery capabilities. In addition, built-in Q+A, quizzes, and testing services are provided.

Breeze Training – pprovides a Blended Learning framework for training with OnLine Seminars, Breeze Presentations, Macromedia and other 3rd party online training courses. Breeze Training adds modules such as certification, quizzes, bookmarking, training reports, surveys and learner transcripts. In addition, course and curriculum management are part of the bundle which allows extensive customization and branding by the organization.

Breeze Events
– a server-based manager of all the details for delivering online Breeze seminars, presentationa and meetings. The program manages registration, qualification/notification, e-mail reminders, attendance, and other tracking setup for the event. Breeze Events can provide the administrative infrastructure for the other 3 delivery components.

The Breeze Communication Server sits on top of the Flash Communication server which has recently been not just hosted worldwide by AdobeMedia but also Akamai-ized => that is dispatched onto the Akamai-network of caching and web performance servers. In addtion, Breeze has a partnership with Premier TeleConferencing. But we are still from Missouri on Massive Meeting performance (the Breeze people are claiming meetings of thousands of individual participants but at what level of interaction and duration has yet to be determined) because this traditionally is a very tough row to hoe and make work well for ALL participants. However, the Breeze people certainly appear to have put some of the key performance enablers in place.

There are three other important components of the Breeze Communication Server. First, it has integration with LDAP and Windows ActiveDirectory services to help simplify security and authentication processes. Second, Breeze Server adds central reporting services on top of those provided by the individual services. This is an improvement over early versions. Finally, Breeze Server through Flass Communication server can offer connections to other application and database servers without having to go through the Web Services Tango.

On the APIs and Authoring tools side, Breeze is reasonably open. Breeze allows developers to use existing content authored in other Macromedia e-learning tools such as Captivate/RoboDemo, Authorware, Dreamweaver, Flash but not Director. Breeze also enables users to deliver and track third-party AICC-compliant content. We have not determined SCORM compliant interoperability. On the API side Breeze is again open enough such that Flex, Cold Fusion and other 3rd party application servers can access and dispatch portions of the Breeze services. We were not able to confirm that Web Services interfaces and templates have been developed for Breeze.

Summary and Implications

Breeze 5 is a serious play for the Web teleconferencing and eTraining/eLearning space. A lot of the management and infrastructure pieces fall into place here. The interface, already good and cross browser/cross platform, gets better. AdobeMedia through Flash and Flash Communication Server know the world of multimedia compression and streaming as well if not better than any other players in the business. But Breeze 5 puts Adobemedia up against the following competitors:

IBM/Lotus – whose Notes and Sametime/Workplace have very strong organizational roots in collaboration and eKnowledge;
Microsoft – whose Placeware/LiveMeeting and SharePoint/Exchange intersect stronly across the Breeze feature space;
Webex – the undisputed market leader in teleconferencing/eLearning;

Two of these players are awfully big and looking for growing markets to fuel their revenue machines. Along with BI and Data Integration, eLearning may be one of the last IT cash-rich archipelagos left in a rapidly commoditizing IT world. IBM has great organizational presence and a proven collaboration database. However Adobemedias hosted options and pricing may produce pressure. Meanwhile Webex finds its now the small fish in the Teleconferencing/eLearning pond – will it be looking for a Great White Knight ?

Microsofts Placeware purchase puts them squarely in the same game as Breeze 5 with Live Meeting and other conferencing/collaboration services. Since its purchase, the LiveMeeting troopers at Redmond have done a surprisingly good job of making portions of the service cross platform and cross browser – more than this party suspected. However Microsoft has two additional trump cards. First, Breezes Presenter is almost totally dependent on Microsofts PowerPoint. Of late, Microsoft has been frantic about getting in place Office-only hooks and connections to help preserve the huge Office cashcow which is vulnerable to much cheaper Word perfect, free and very good Open Office, etc. Will Microsoft be willing to close the PowerPoint connection off in the upcoming Longhorn-ized Office to give their LiveMeeting competitive advantage against Breeze? Redmond has done a lot worse things to their “ISV partners”.

The second Redmond trump card is the AdobeMedias Flash Player. The Flash Player that Breeze is absolutely dependent on has 98% market penetration because it gets distributed with every copy of Windows/IE. And Microsoft has been rumbling about the PC-centric Smart Client for Longhorn which Breeze is certainly not. Watch for what happens to Flash Player in upcoming IE7 and then Longhorn beta. This will tell a lot about whether bulking up as AdobeMedia gives countervailing leverage at 1 Microsoft Way – both are due out this summer – will they be AdobeMedia friendly or fanged ?

Breeze 5 is far from perfect but with constantly improving performance and features plus some major improvements in administration and infrastructure – Breeze is doing what makes Adobemedias Photoshop a success – adding substantial value on every iteration and update. And the new prominent marketing of hosted services may be a model for how server-based desktop software can be charged for. In short, AdobeMedia has a very, very interesting first product introduction with Breeze 5.

(c) JBSurveyer 2005