RealTime IT News

LifeSize Pitches 'Immersive' Video Conferencing

SAN FRANCISCO -- Can video conferencing save your company money? The vendors of such wares have been pushing that idea for years – meet online and respond quicker to customer demand while saving on travel costs.

Cisco's Telepresence system and HP's Halo are among the high-end video conference systems costing more than $100,000. Both companies also have deals with certain hotels and conference centers to make the systems available on a rental basis.

Today LifeSize, an Austin, Texas-based provider of video conferencing systems, announced new high definition systems priced systems priced tens of thousands of dollars less than those from Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and HP (NYSE: HPQ).

The highest end LifeSize Conference 200 system lists for $49,999, though that is not a directly fair comparison since it doesn't include certain integration and installation costs from third-party LifeSize partners that are included with the Cisco and HP systems.

"There's still an extraordinary price/performance gap of 2x at the low end and 5x at the high end,' said Casey King, LifeSize's chief technology officer, in a briefing and demo of the system here.

In addition to the Conference 200, LifeSize now offers the LifeSize Team 200 ($10,999) and LifeSize Room 200 ($16,999) systems. King called the latest rollouts the biggest the company has done since it launched in 2003. It currently has over 4,000 customers worldwide and has shipped over 15,000 units. Partners include such enterprise stalwarts as CSC, Dell, Hitachi, Siemens and TechData.

Analyst Andrew Davis of Wainhouse Research is particularly impressed that LifeSize now offers a 720p (High Definition resolution) at 60 per frames per second. "A lot of people we surveyed have bought HD video conferencing systems, but very few are using the HD calls because they don't have the bandwidth or it needs to be reserved for other things," Davis told InternetNews.com. "They've cut the bandwidth requirement for HD in half which is a remarkable improvement."

The 60 frames per second mode offers a smoother, full motion display rate designed to cut down on latency or delays in transmission. Roopam Jain, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said in a statement that the LifeSize Room 200 "is a significant accomplishment, delivering Full HD, dual screens and packed with features for less than $17,000."

Like its competitors, LifeSize also offers 1080p high resolution mode, but Davis said few companies have the high-end plasma monitors to take advantage of that.

Cost/benefits comes into focus

While the sales pitch for video conferencing may not have changed much the past several years, the points of emphasis have sharpened. King notes skyrocketing fuel prices and travel costs as well as the trend of more companies expanding globally.

And as a relatively specialized commodity, there are still plenty of green field opportunities, said King, particularly as the quality improves to a more lifelike, "immersive" experience. "We want each session to be good enough that you feel like you just me in person in the video session," said Casey.

One unique customer example is Activision. Casey said the giant videogame company bought 25 LifeSize systems to cut down on travel that included bringing in execs from across the country for monthly meetings. Now they meet in a videoconference session and can even plug in game systems to show off new features in separate video windows, all in hi def.