Seattle-based startup Netpodium will launch the latest version of its internet broadcasting suite this week, that it says will enable companies to perform large group interactions over the web including the ability to send messages to individual participants, chat and audience polling, and other back-channel capabilities. The product works alongside the two main streaming audio and video products, RealNetworks Inc’s RealPlayer and Microsoft Corp’s NetShow and delivers a Java interface down to the browser. New with version 1.6 is the ability to customize the interface for localized broadcasts in any single-byte language. This cut also sees the result of a closer relationship with Microsoft than before, whereby Netpodium can synchronize its information with the NetShow stream no matter how latent the stream becomes. Netpodium VP marketing Keith Zentner says the company has to perform a delicate dance in supporting the two Seattle-area media streaming giants and with the next cut, version 2.0, hopes to take advantage of some of the RealNetworks technologies in its forthcoming G2 player. It is currently testing application broadcasting with G2 at the moment. Zentner says the same capability will be added later, this time supporting NetShow. The interactive broadcasting suite takes the content, which can be from almost any authoring tool, PowerPoint slides, Macromedia Flash, Video GIF, just so long as it can output to HTML. The content is then sequenced in a linear fashion, the builder tool assembles it, includes speaker notes where required, and puts it on a web server. Users sign in at a given URL and the event can begin. It can be recorded and then pulled into a report, including all the users’ polling. The server supports Windows NT only at the moment. Zentner sees a market opportunity with companies that require interaction with more than 30 people and up to 2,000 simultaneously. The uses include investor relations, field sales updates, general employee messages and broadcasts to OEM customers. Microsoft is both a technology partner and a customer, as it uses Netpodium to broadcast to its international OEMs. Others include Ernst & Young, Novell and broadcast service provider Activate. Zentner says the company is talking to internet broadcasters Broadcast.com and InterVu about possible tie-ups. Netpodium’s biggest problem seems to be getting the word out. Trying to persuade 2,000 people to do anything at the same time can be difficult, let alone all log on at a URL for an internet broadcast. Zentner admits that at the moment, getting an audience can be tricky, but the company is at Fall Internet World this week in New York trying to do just that. Netpodium is venture capital-funded and has 15 employees, mostly from Microsoft, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard and the developer of PageMaker, Aldus Corp. Expect version 2.0 in the first quarter of next year.