Internet Multimedia Improved

SAN MATEO (06/13/2000) - IBM Corp. on Tuesday delivered a spruced-up version of its HotMedia Internet multimedia package that includes improved steaming video and 3-D imaging capabilities, allowing businesses to create more interactive effects for Web sites, thereby increasing the likelihood that users will stay longer on that site.

Version 3.0 also includes capabilities that let users initiate transactions within the HotMedia object. This offers them the option of staying on a chosen Web site without having to jump to another page to close a transaction, company officials said.

Some industry observers believe that rich media represents the latest wave in e-business because it allows companies to distinguish themselves from their competition and gives them a better chance to retain online customers. For instance, recently conducted research from Jupiter Communications shows that about 90 percent of online customers want some form of interaction.

HotMedia also allows users to integrate synchronized audio, panoramas, and multitracked animations into a single package without their requiring any other dedicated servers or plug-ins, according to company officials.

These features and others allow users to put together typical Internet-based applications such as e-catalogs and Web self-service applications. Developers also can produce virtual tours, banner ads, and other sales-supporting Web site capabilities.

For instance, Fidelity Investments Institutional Services, based in Boston, is using Version 3.0 to create a virtual tour of its customer call center, located in Dallas. Another user, ShopGoOnline.com, a cybermall, has used the product to better sell a number of its products ranging from beauty aids to home and garden items.

"As more and more companies are born on the Internet, we think it is becoming imperative to find ways to set yourself apart from the competition, " said Matt Herman, vice president at Go Online Networks. "I think this [HotMedia] gives us a competitive advantage because it allows us bring our products to life."

Explaining how the technology works, IBM officials said the HotMedia player is broken into very small applets, about 10KB in size, which can then be delivered to users on an as-needed basis.

The product's new 3-D capabilities support the Virtual Reality Modeling Language 2.0 (VRML), a widely recognized standard that represents 3-D objects, giving customers a truer interactive 3-D experience.

"We think this version delivers a complete, media solution," said Armando Garcia, vice president of IBM's Content Management Solutions. "It should help better empower both a company and its consumers with an interactive experience for e-business."

Garcia said HotMedia plays a central role, not only in IBM's overall efforts to help turn brick-and-mortar businesses into e-businesses, but as part of its own product strategies.

The product supports the IBM Content Manager and Enterprise Information Portal -- both of which are based on DB2 Universal Database -- as a new rich media data type that can be stored, managed, retrieved, and delivered. HotMedia is also bundled with Macromedia Dreamweaver, NetObject Fusion, and IBM Websphere Studio, which supplies these applications with better rich media capabilities.

More information about HotMedia is at www.ibm.com/software. or at www.ibm.com/hotmedia.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, New York, is at www.ibm.com.

Ed Scannell is an InfoWorld editor at large.

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