Many people think conferencing is boring. I generally tend
to agree. Of course there are still a number of companies generating some
excitement in this space and thus are worth highlighting. One such company,
Voyant won a TMC Labs Innovation
Award last month. The two other companies I recently spoke to are
Sonexis is a company looking to displace conferencing service providers,
using their hardware, in an attempt to get a share of this three billion
dollar market. According to the company, they can cut the cost of
conferencing down to one-tenth of one cent per minute! By leasing their
equipment using the operations budget a company can immediately start saving
precious dollars. The company executives believe that the conferencing
market will shift from hosted to premise based. This is certainly a
possibility, but if service providers lower their conferencing prices, then
the justification for bringing conferencing in-house decreases. Just a
The conferencing interface from a user perspective is identical to most
conferencing services, allowing callers to call in to join a call. The
conference host is able to see a roster of attendees and if desired, private
conversations can be had between parties. Documents can be shared over the
Web during a call. In order to accommodate users who may be mobile, the host
may select that a person on the conference call be given audio or Web
access, or both.
Sonexis tells me that many companies arenï¿½t even aware of the amount of
conferencing taking place in their organizations. When you start to add up
the costs of various services used by various departments such as sales,
marketing, investor relations, it becomes clear in some companies that
bringing conferencing in-house can lower costs.
Sonexis is not developing huge systems like some of the other players in
this space. Instead, their systems can handle 120 VoIP sessions or 96 TDM
sessions. These numbers are expected to double by the end of the year
though. The systems are fairly simple to administer and can be used in
multiple regions to lower long-distance costs if desired.
Other features include the ability to join a conference by clicking on a
link in an e-mail. You can also connect with Outlook calendaring. A version
allowing seamless IM connectivity is coming soon as well. Please note that
this conferencing solution does allow IM between conference participants.
There is the added ability to store a conference and play it later. This
is very convenient for training and regulatory issues and of course if your
intended audience wasnï¿½t available to hear the conference live.
The reasons to bring conferencing in-house are many-fold. You get more
control and if you already spend $1,000 per month or more on conferencing,
this solution makes sense for you, as $1,000/month is the entry leasing
cost. There may also be the opportunity to use conferencing more than you do
now if there is no per-minute cost, which could end up making your company
more productive. Finally, there is the security aspect. Many conference
calls are confidential and using a service provider to host these calls is
typically secure but reducing the possibility of unauthorized eavesdroppers
is always a good thing. If you are looking to buy or resell this type of
product please call Sonexis at (978) 640-2000 or visit
From network conference calling where users arenï¿½t physically located in the
same room, I take you to the realm of desktop or conference room
conferencing, which we will refer to for the sake of clarity as conferencing
devices. This is potentially the most boring area of conferencing, as
Polycom owns this market with 93
percent of global market share and 95 percent of U.S. market share! Even
Microsoft has less market share than Polycom. My hat is off to them.
If Sweden-based Konftel has its way however, they will all change how we
think of conferencing devices. Already, they tell me that their market share
is up to 15 percent in Europe, which is respectable. They tell me that their
sound quality is superior to Polycom as they use a single omni-directional
microphone at the top of the conferencing unit as opposed to three. This
allows the speaker to be heard clearly regardless of their location in the
room and even as they move around.
I asked why someone would purchase Konftel products instead of Polycom
and was told by the company that the quality is superior and they price
their units one-third to one-half off the equivalent Polycom device.
Obviously this is a compelling amount of money to be saving. Another market
they are excelling in is the replacement of audio units in videoconferencing
The Konftel 50 is the entry-level unit and it can connect to any phone
including cell phones and IP telephony connections. There are options such
as various connectors, a wall mounting bracket and aluminum travel case.
The Konftel 100 is for smaller conference rooms and features a 12-digit
keypad with redial, button for multi-party calls, volume control and mute.
The Konftel 200 is designed for larger conference rooms and allows
extension microphones to be added for a minimum of 700 feet of coverage. The
price for this device without add-ons is $499. The 200NI can plug into an
ISDN line and is targeted at environments such as the government that has
large numbers of ISDN lines in use.
Also on tap is the Konftel 25, which will be released soon. This is an
ultra portable battery-operated device that can easily connect to a cell
phone, for true ad-hoc conferencing from even the most remote locations.
People like to vote for the underdog and if there is an underdog in the
conferencing device market you can be sure it is Konftel. In my meetings
with corporate executives I was impressed with what I heard. I havenï¿½t
tested their devices yet but plan to in the future. One area of improvement
is the Web site, which needs to have better English support if they want to
be taken seriously in the U.S. I did mention this to the company and they
are aware of this limitation and have promised to address it. However, this
is a minor quibble, and if the sound quality is as good as they say they
should do well in the U.S.
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