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Polycom, Radvision simplify videoconferencing

Nov 11, 20024 mins
Enterprise Applications

Polycom and Radvision are taking steps to simplify videoconferencing for network executives and end users with new products that are more powerful and easier to administer than previous generations.

Polycom and Radvision are taking steps to simplify videoconferencing for network executives and end users with new products that are more powerful and easier to administer than previous generations.

First, Polycom’s new iPower 9000 series expands on PictureTel’s work on its iPower 900 series, a line of group videoconferencing units that come with a PC for sharing data and other resources with conference participants, which Polycom acquired last year. The new, beefier 9000 series being added to the iPower line comes in two models: a standard PC implementation (the iPower 9800) and a rack-mount unit available to system integrators building custom room systems.

Customers purchasing the iPower 9800 instead of the smaller 900 series get a better-quality camera, and a new keyboard and remote combination that have videoconferencing-specific shortcut keys – zoom, pan and hang up – designed to make the systems more user-friendly, says Ned Semonite, vice president of product management at Polycom.

The rack-mounted iPower 9000 Codec provides all the software technology for conferencing with multiple video and audio inputs, and connectivity to ISDN and IP networks.

Phil Go, CIO for Barton Malow, a construction management firm based in Michigan, is beta-testing the iPower 9800 as part of a custom-built conference room system. His colleagues use the system eight to 12 hours per week to speak with company offices in Virginia and Maryland.

“The wonderful thing about the [new] camera is after a while you don’t notice that it’s a videoconferencing unit, the technology is transparent,” Go says. He says the new wireless keyboard with built-in short-cut keys is also less obtrusive. Before, users had to select commands from a pull-down menu, making it obvious to everyone in the conference what they were doing.

Polycom also says that by the end of this month it will offer a $7,000 optional software upgrade that will let the iPower line support up to 12 videoconference participants at a time, up from the current limit of four or five.

The new 9000 series goes up against Tandberg’s recently announced Director, a massive conference room system featuring a 67-inch flat touch screen display.

The iPower 9800 costs $18,000 fully configured, while the iPower 9000 Codec for system integrators costs $14,000.

Looking to “take the science project” out of setting up a videoconferencing network, Radvision has unveiled Invision, a suite of network appliances that combine multipoint control units (MCU), gatekeepers and gateways in one box. Previously, three separate devices were needed for the functions.

The first product available in the new line is the Invision 100, a 1U (1.75-inch-high) box supporting both IP and ISDN connections, and the ability to handle 12 simultaneous video calls via the built-in MCU and gateway. Gatekeeper functionality lets administrators set up per-call bandwidth limitations, have the system dial out to all participants at the beginning of a scheduled call and monitor ongoing calls. Invision also can show a call layout featuring up to 13 different users on the screen at the same time.

Voice calls also are supported in the Invision line, including H.323-based voice-over-IP calls. Support for Session Initiation Protocol will be available early next year, says David Sokolic, Radvision’s vice president of marketing. H.324M support for videoconferencing over 3G mobile networks will be added at a later date.

Radvision, which has OEM deals with the likes of Cisco, is in competition with Polycom’s network systems group in the video network market segment.

Now shipping, the Invision 100 comes configured with either four Basic Rate Interface ISDN links or one Primary Rate Interface ISDN link. The Invision 410, a bigger box with more ISDN capacity, will be available in the first quarter of next year. Pricing for the Invision 100 starts at $40,000.