There's a new player in the desktop conferencing space that's hoping to combine the best of Web and video conferencing in a desktop interface. Arel Communications' Integrated Conferencing Platform (ICP) is a software-based server that runs on Windows 2000 or above using standard hardware to support H.323 conferencing. For those looking to use PSTN or H.320 transcoding, some special hardware is required. ICP can be used for traditional point-to-point or multi-point calls (with non-Arel H.323 endpoints too) as well as one-to-many training sessions. Desktop users just need a 200 K\/byte download and Internet Explorer to join a conference in listen-only mode. A headset\/microphone combo and Webcam adds two-way conversation to the mix.What I like in the product feature set is its attempt to be firewall friendly. As one of our IT guys told me, H.323 is a "noisy" protocol to a firewall. Arel gets around the issue by encapsulating everything in a TCP packet that has the real-time capabilities of UDP. There's also some underlying technology called "Ultra Stack" that's designed to minimize the detrimental effects of network latency and jitter in a video call. Part of videoconferencing's adoption problem is the need for more holes to be poked in a firewall. Any technology that help alleviate that issue is a step in the right direction.You can read how Countrywide Home Loans is using the technology for its distance learning effort in this article.