Also: WiredRed rolls Web conferencing suiteMicrosoft\u00a0has released the second beta of Host Integration Server, countering earlier suggestions that the product would not be upgraded because its functionality would be rolled into other Microsoft E-Business Server products. Host Integration Server 2004 succeeds the 2000 version of the software, released in August 2000. The update promises to make it easier to link Windows systems with\u00a0IBM mainframes and midrange AS\/400 servers, known as iSeries servers. It also is meant to make it easier for customers to migrate away from those IBM systems, and it steps up competition with IBM's WebSphere offerings. Microsoft says it has about 10,000 Host Integration Server customers, mostly large companies that use the product in branch offices for access to applications and data on IBM mainframes or AS\/400 machines. Host Integration Server 2004 offers a new transaction integrator that has been extended to cover AS\/400 systems. The transaction integrator lets users take mainframe and AS\/400 applications and publish them as Web services using the Microsoft .Net Framework and Visual Studio .Net developer tools, Microsoft says. The final version of the product is due in mid-2004.WiredRed Software recently released its software-based e\/pop Web Conferencing service, which combines audio, video, presentation and application sharing accessible via an ActiveX control and hosted by the customer. Viewers access the server via a Windows 95 machine or greater and a standard Web browser. On their first visit, an ActiveX control is downloaded and installed. The application then presents them with a list of available conferences to join. It also automatically detects whether they have a microphone and Webcam available. Video is encoded using a combination of H.264 and MPEG-4, and audio is delivered using a GSM variant. The conference moderator controls the video frame rate, a useful feature in low-bandwidth situations. Currently, only other WiredRed clients can participate in the conference. The company has plans for a\u00a0Session Initiation Protocol gateway later this year. E\/pop Web Conferencing starts at $2,000 per year for up to five concurrent users.