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Sony to White-Label Video Over IP

Sony's consumer clout could help it move a new private-label Video over IP service out of the conference room and onto the desktop and laptop.

Sony Electronics will combine its own line of conference room and executive desktop video units with connectivity and applications provided by GlowPoint , the companies said on Thursday. Via the strategic alliance, the two companies hope to broaden the use of IP-based video in the office and among consumers.

"Video must move out of the conference room in order to make this an interesting businesses," said GlowPoint CEO David Trachtenberg. "Video conferencing is a snoozer because of people's [less than excellent] experience."

The GlowPoint-powered service, expected to launch mid-2005, will include GlowPoint's calling plans and video communications features, such as live operators, a video call mailbox, direct-dial numbers, call forwarding and video help files.

"Most business videoconferencing today is over room systems on ISDN, but that's shifting rapidly to IP," said Wainhouse Research analyst Andrew Davis. "Your motive to move from ISDN to IP is higher reliability, higher call quality and lower cost."

Such a move also will enable businesses to let employees videoconference from the desktop, instead of having to install themselves in conference rooms, he said.

Trachtenberg said that business use of video conferencing on the desktop is the sweet spot for Sony. However, since workers are also consumers, he expects the partnership to help migrate Video over IP to the home.

While the purchase decision for traditional enterprise video conferencing, typically installed in office conference rooms, is impersonal, he said. "When it moves to your desk, laptop or home, the purchase decision becomes very different. And what better brand than Sony to leverage its relationship with the consumer?"

Sony's sales force will receive a commission on sales of the Sony-branded product, Trachtenberg said, while GlowPoint also will receive a fee for providing the "white-label" package.

Wainhouse's Andrews said he expects Video over IP to become a major application for DSL and cable companies. "I'm surprised they haven't pushed it in the past," he said. At the same time, he admitted that demand among consumers has lagged expectations. "People just don't get video," he said.

Trachtenberg said GlowPoint also has landed large broadcasting customers such as ESPN to use its services to create broadcast video content. For example, he said, the NFL installed GlowPoint systems at the headquarters of all of its teams. "When they want to do an interview or create video on-the-fly, they create a video conference call," he said.