For those who want to add multimedia and streaming video to their Web sites without the expensive server, IBM has a new option with the release of HotMedia 3.0. The free Java-based software can be used to string images, audio, animations and now video and Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) content into a single rich media file. Web surfers can view the file using a series of small Java applets that are downloaded separately for each function. "The goal on the user side is to create an environment that does not need any special plug-ins that would get in the way of the viewing experience," says Bob Yates, marketing development manager in IBM's Web content management group. "For creators, they can use various media types with a single tool." The desktop tool, downloadable from IBM's HotMedia site, is available for Macintosh and Windows. Both support standard image formats such as GIF and JPEG, as well as many standard audio formats. On the video front, the Windows developer tool supports the AVI format, while Mac users can also incorporate QuickTime MOV files into their presentations. All the various formats are encapsulated into a single file that is streamed out using a standard HTTP server, according to Yates. HotMedia's development tool is a relatively simple editor that lets content creators paste clips together and synchronize visual elements based on an audio timeline. For more in-depth editing, creators must use tools such as Adobe Photoshop for images and Premiere for videos, Yates says. HotMedia compresses video down depending on what type of connection it will be served over, ranging from 28.8kbit/sec modems to high-speed LANs. IBM broke the player into multiple applets, so if a rich media file just contains audio, then only the audio part of the player is downloaded. Each piece stays with the browser once it has been retrieved. HotMedia 3.0 is available now from IBM's Web site at no cost.