• United States

Another battle: Polycom and Tandberg

Jul 12, 20044 mins
Data Center

The McDonald’s/Burger King-like battle between Polycom and Tandberg continues with dueling big releases just a few days apart (actually, one was moved as to not compete with and/or one-up the other.) But this is a great thing for users. As long-time Wainhouse Research videoconferencing analyst Andrew Davis said: “The good news is, videoconferencing just got easier.”

Tandberg leads the charge by essentially redoing its entire line of video endpoints, save for the T1000 desktop unit, but beefing up the hardware inside and relabeling them with MXP, a new badge that stands for Media Experience. Along the line, they’ve added a few new units as well and a new gatekeeper to round out their network offering. Tandberg is definitely taking advantage of the new horse power by offering H.264, H.239 (video and data in the same conference) and encryption in the same multipoint conference. Also, the built in MCU can support up to 11 users (6 video, 5 on the phone), up from just five previously (4 video, 1 on the phone). They’ve also rolled out AAC-LD (low delay) audio encoding, an industry standard specification (though Tandberg is the only one implementing it at the moment) capable of 20 KHz stereo (that’s right, stereo) audio. For the new units, Tandberg’s added Maestro, a standalone unit that integrates with a conference room’s existing audio/video display gear, a 3000 MXP codec that is portable and offers wireless connectivity. All the MXP devices are also “SIP ready”, more of a future looking addition for those looking to integrate SIP audio systems with their video gear. All of the enhanced features work with the big MPS MCU the company launched last month.

Polycom’s not to be out done, announcing today it’s new VSX 7.0 software upgrade and new VSX units as well. Polycom too is adding stereo to its proprietary Siren14 techology with some systems coming with wo microphones to create stereo input at the user level, rather than from pre-recorded content on a CD or DVD. Polycom’s VSX 7.0 software includes the ability to do live and on-demand Web streaming of video calls in QuickTime format, the ability to see four participants on screen at one time, SNMP support for remote management, and integration with Cisco Call Manager 4.0 ECS. This will let a user of a Cisco IP phone transfer calls to a video Polycom video endpoint. The 7.0 software upgrade is free for any current VSX owner. Polycom also is introducing new video endpoints, including two new set-top units in the VSX 7000 line (starting at about $6,000) and three new rack-mounted systems in the VSX 8000 series (starting at about $13,000) that are designed for larger conference rooms. Polycom has added integration between some of the higher-end units and its VTX 1000 audio conference phone that lets the phone’s speakers and microphones be the audio arm of the video call. Users also can dial video calls from the phone’s keypad.

Like Tandberg has done all along, Polycom is now standardizing most of its endpoint around a single code/hardware set. The expanded VSX line pretty much spells the end of the line for Polycom’s venerable ViewStation and iPower (acquired in the PictureTel deal) lines. They’re still supporting and making them for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before they’re put out to pasture.

Customers should be the winners in this. Now there’s two big companies that have a complete line of video products, from the endpoints to the gear in the middle. (Three if you count smaller VCON). Both companies, which are One (Polycom) and Two (Tandberg) in the industry, are for the most part rallying around the same standards for the bells and whistle stuff, making it easier for those with different vendor alliances to still communicate. Now if only the prices would come down a bit.