Software converts PowerPoint to Flash

Latitude Communications on Friday announced a new product offering that captures PowerPoint slides, audio and other materials and outputs the resulting content into a Flash-based presentation that can be viewed in any Web browser with a Flash plug-in.

MeetingPlace iCreate uses a plug-in for Microsoft's PowerPoint that allows users to capture audio and the slides as well as add video, polls and quizzes to round out the end product. By converting the presentation to Flash, all the animations and effects in the original presentation are preserved, but typically at a much smaller file size. ICreate is based on technology Latitude acquired when it purchased Wanadu in May of this year.

“PowerPoint is a heavy application and can be a challenge to deliver over Web with animations in it,” says Bill Odell, vice president of marketing at Latitude. “Flash lets keep the multimedia capability.”

The product, which is runs separately from Latitude’s flagship MeetingPlace audio and Web conferencing bridge, is available as a stand-alone desktop application, a premise-based server application or as a hosted offering. With both the server-based and hosted offerings, the conversion work is done on the server and not by the client. Customers using the hosted application can also store and serve their Flash presentations from Latitude’s data centers.

Latitude is targeting the educational community as well as corporate communications and training.

“Large repetitive meetings and training sessions are created in PowerPoint,” Odell says. “Now you can create once and use over and over. There’s no need to trunk up phone calls and Web conferencing seats.”

Latitude is taking on the creator of Flash, Macromedia, in the area of presentation-to-Flash conversion. Macromedia offers Breeze, a similar system that converts slides into Flash and publishes them to the Web. Both companies tout Flash’s 98 percent adoption rate in the browser market making it easy to share Flash-based content without the user having to download a plug-in.

“Going forward with Flash as underlying technology for Web conferencing in general is very smart thing,” Odell says. “Even with what we or WebEx have today you have to download plug-in or use Java and IT doesn't like these.”

Odell says by next year, Latitude will base its MeetingPlace Web conferencing offering on Flash, rather than using Java. “We think it solves a lot of issues that IT has today with current Web conferencing.”

Latitude iCreate is available for Windows with a starting price of around US$30,000 (including support) for those that want to buy a license and install the software themselves.

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