HP goes after lower-end videoconferencing market

New tools supplement existing Halo studio offering

Hewlett-Packard today announced videoconferencing for desktops, laptops and conference rooms to complement its high-end, studio-based Halo videoconferencing line.

HP unveiled what it calls "visual collaboration" software in the form of a desktop client for deployment on laptops and desktops. The company also announced that an existing 23-inch executive desktop computer with a touchscreen display is now being bundled with the special software, and it introduced two room-size videoconferencing endpoints running the software.

For five years, HP has sold monitors, cameras and other gear to equip special studios for its high-end Halo videoconferencing system, but the company has managed all of the videoconferencing sessions that use that equipment. HP will not manage any of the sessions with its newest offering, turning over many of those controls to end users and IT shops through special servers.

HP's entry into desktop videoconferencing will further energize the market for videoconferencing, even as many newer mobile devices like the iPhone 4 have begun supporting real-time video chat. HP's newest desktop client will not initially support videoconferencing on devices smaller than a typical laptop.

The software being deployed starting today uses Scalable Video Coding (SVC) technology that HP obtained from Vidyo earlier this year. SVC reduces latency and eliminates the need to purchase a multipoint control unit commonly used in videoconferencing systems to control inputs.

Marcio Macedo, director of product management for HP Visual Collaboration, said the software also stabilizes videoconferencing data streams to keep the picture from freezing, which sometimes happens on some video calls.

He said a laptop user deploying the software can connect in a typical hotel room and receive "acceptable" videoconferencing quality at 15 frames per second with 360 lines of resolution. That's about half of what many experts refer to as high definition video.

The software adapts to the resolution and bandwidth of each end user so it can scale to a variety of networks without the need for a costly network upgrade, Macedo added.

The system supports up to 100 users in a single video call, meaning each person could be in a different location. A single screen shows the last eight people to talk.

The cost of a basic software license is $5 per endpoint (which means anything from a laptop to a room-size device); HP estimates the cost of server infrastructure to support the videoconferencing system will be about $100 per endpoint.

HP now offers more videoconferencing options for desktops, laptops and conference rooms.

The executive desktop hardware includes an HP TouchSmart 600 Quad touchscreen 23-inch display as well as a camera, headset, keyboard and mouse for $2,599. The two conference room endpoints cost $4,999 and $9,499, not including displays and cameras.

HP calculated that it could cost about $86,000 to equip a company with a full Visual Collaboration system for 100 people using a variety of licenses and gear for 95 desktops (or laptops), five executive desktops and two conference rooms.

Pricing for three server components was not announced, but their cost is included in the $100 per endpoint infrastructure estimate. One of the three is the HP Visual Collaboration Portal, which is preconfigured on HP ProLiant DL360 servers to allow IT shops to handle remote configuration of the system and other administrative duties.

HP is also providing a Visual Collaboration Router to route videoconferencing streams. It runs on an HP server appliance. The third server is an HP Visual Collaboration Gateway to connect its new videoconferencing equipment to existing systems, as long as they are H.323-based or Session Initiation Protocol-based.

Macedo said the Vidyo SVC is not used by any of the major videoconferencing vendors, such as Polycom, Cisco or LifeSize. "We believe the SVC technology is the right fit for the enterprise," he said.

Ira Weinstein, an analyst at Wainhouse Research, said HP will benefit with its Visual Collaboration initiative by having so many HP laptops and desktops on the market.

"With HP getting into the videoconferencing market, the competition will heat up even further," said Roopam Jain, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "HP is very well positioned due to its services capabilities, bigger enterprise communications and mobility focus and ... its strong unified communications partnership with Microsoft."

Halo studio systems have been known to cost $250,000 a piece, making them competitive with Cisco's high-end telepresence systems. But HP now is rounding out its total videoconferencing offer with the SVC software for desktops and conference rooms.

Cisco earlier this week announced two desktop thin client devices to help support videoconferencing and other collaboration, along with software to make thin client servers work more efficiently in storing and serving up video content.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

Read more about enterprise web 2.0/collaboration in Computerworld's Enterprise Web 2.0/Collaboration Topic Center.

This story, "HP goes after lower-end videoconferencing market" was originally published by Computerworld.

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