Mountain View, California-based developer of virtual auditorium software, PlaceWare Inc, the Xerox Corp Palo Alto research center spin-off, has succeeded in getting a total of $5m in its second round of venture funding. Venture capital firms InterWest Partners and Bay Partners provided the major financing, with private investment coming from Novell Inc’s new chief executive Eric Schmidt, and Dan Lynch, founder and chairman of Cybercash Inc. Xerox PARC is a minority shareholder in PlaceWare, reflecting the 7 years of research and development it invested in the concept. PlaceWare Auditorium software provides real-time applications that enable large groups of people to interact on the web. Currently the software is available as either text or audio from Java-enabled browsers, and the company claims when Java becomes more graphics-friendly it will be adding Video at around 1 frame per second, and the full service will be available at 28,800bps. PlaceWare hopes to compete in the video and teleconferencing markets, as it believes that current systems are over-priced, and unfriendly. In contrast, the company offers a virtual lecture theater in which different levels of access rights are allowed, so presentations can be controlled. The product is initially aimed at companies with dispersed teams, to enable them to get together to attend training sessions and seminars from the desktop. PlaceWare Auditorium, launched as a public Beta in April at JavaOne, is to be generally available in June. The cost will be $150 per seat for text only and $300 for the full audio/video package.