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Conferencing/telepresence

Polycom Ups Telepresence Ante

Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) announced its latest immersive telepresence product, Polycom Open Telepresence Experience (OTX), today as part of an aggressive push against newly merged rivals Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA). (See Cisco/Tandberg Gets Final OK.)

Polycom's focus is on making telepresense less expensive and thus easier for businesses to justify, says Polycom director of marketing Laura Shay. Part of that equation lies in reducing the bandwith requirements; Polycom is doing that by offering the first system using H.264 High Profile, a standard compression technology that it says can cut the bandwidth needed for HD telepresence and videoconferencing by 50 percent.

"We played a big part in the standards process, and having this currently gives us a real competitive advantage," Shay says. "Other vendors will have it by the end of the year, but we can offer it now."

H.264 High Profile is available on Polycom's HDX room telepresence systems, RMX videoconferencing platforms, and its immersive telepresence systems.

The OTX line was created in response to the way enterprises use telepresence. Previously, enterprises could have an immersive telepresence room, or they could use a flexible system that didn't provide a back wall and consistent lighting for the immersive experience. Some enterprises want both, it turns out.

"When we provided the telepresence video but not the back wall and the lighting, you wouldn't believe what people did in a room -- the lighting was bad, the backgrounds were random," she says. "It turns out people really do want to be immersed, they want to forget they are in a videoconference."

So, for OTX, Polycom engineered new plasma displays with thinner frames and bezels, and it now offers a lighting kit and a modular back wall, to create an immersive experience in a plain old conference room. The table that is part of the system seats 10 in conferencing mode and six when used as a telepresence system. The system is set up so that video sessions must be initiated, rather than starting automatically when someone enters the room, as some systems do, Shay said.

As part of the Polycom Open Collaboration network, the OTX can communicate with other video systems including desktop and video conference rooms that aren't designed for telepresence.

The scheduling system is now integrated with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Exchange and Outlook, enabling video meetings to be set up with those standard business tools.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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