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Reality Check
June 2000

Video Conferencing Products/Services

The realm of IP conferencing has grown beyond video cameras and the servers that host enterprise conferencing sessions. In a market that is driven by value-added incentives and superior customer care, companies that provide video conferencing services have become just as important as the equipment necessary to conduct them. This is especially true for small to mid-size companies, where investment in complete video conferencing systems might not make sense economically.

Whether you're searching for a client/server conferencing package with all the necessary hardware included, or simply looking for a good digital video camera and perhaps the ability to add video conferencing capability to your Web site, there's a converged solution that can handle your multimedia needs. Most video conferencing products and services also offer the ability to share files and browse presentations simultaneously, so participants aren't limited to mere two-way audio and video. The offerings listed below scale from the sensors and access concentrators that comprise the core of conferencing hardware to the host of available services that offer everything from scheduling to moderating to billing. Whatever your conferencing needs may be, there's an IP-enabled solution out there to help bring together the disparate parties you'd like to see and hear -- in real time.
-- Laura Guevin

Video Conferencing Products/Services

Video Portal MAX i.c.Live VCS comCenter Plus/comCenter Elite
HomeConnect PC Digital WebCam QuickVideo Suite PB-0100 Camera-On-a-Chip
MAC 500 Multipoint Conferencing Unit VX-Series
COMMUNICATE! i2000 Video Conferencing Services Videochat Your Site
MSHOW.com MCU-323, Version 2.1 MediaConnect 6000 Version 2.0
Accord MGC-100 Obvious Video Portal Suite Lightning Strike
E-Conference BT Meeting Place M2-VMX and M2-AMX
Netcall mm225 ISDN Business Videophone InfoView
Encounter 3000 NetXpress XL2000 Connex Presents
ViewStation FX

Video Portal
3393 Octavius Dr. #102
Santa Clara, CA 95054

  • Video Portal offers point-and-click calling through a unique directory service that allows users to place a call by clicking on one or more names. The directory is also searchable, and shows the status of remote users, while allowing callers to create favorites lists. The Portal lets users play stored video as well, and can receive video streams from live feeds or event broadcasts.
  • Features include a common interface for IP, ISDN, ATM, and all other common video standards. Additional functionality includes advance call scheduling, and the ability to set up contact and buddy lists. User status is automatically listed next to a user's name, so a caller will know if that person is online, and whether he or she is involved in another call.

HomeConnect PC Digital WebCam
3Com Corporation
5400 Bayfront Plaza
P.O. Box 58145
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8145

  • This digital PC video camera enables users to make real-time video calls, send e-mail post cards with photos or videos, and even import video from a camcorder and manipulate it. The portable HomeConnect offers high image quality in diverse and low-light environments, and is bundled with the software needed for video conferencing.
  • The camera offers a USB frame rate of up to 60 fps at 160x120 pixels. It automatically adjusts to existing light levels for best picture appearance, and features 16.8 million true colors, or 256 grayscale colors. Other features include a removable lens with adjustable focus, and exposure and shutter control. The camera supports the H.323 and H.324 standards.

MAC 500
General DataComm Industries, Inc.
P.O. Box 1299
Middlebury, CT 06762-1299

  • The MAC 500 video access concentrator offers low-latency MPEG-2 video compression for low-bandwidth, real-time video applications like distance learning and telemedicine. The concentrator can support up to three video encoding and multiple decoding streams on one system, and also supports end-to-end provisioning of video conferencing services as well as continuous presence among all sites.
  • The unit concentrates video and IP traffic onto a DS-3 or OC-3c/STM-1 ATM network interface. It also features a 10/100 Ethernet interface for support of IP-over-ATM access, as well as data collaboration and other IP applications. I, IP, IBP, and IBBP frame encoding are featured, bringing video compression rates down to 1.5 Mbps.

01 Communique Laboratory, Inc.
1450 Meyerside Dr., Ste. 500
Mississauga, ON L5T 2N5 Canada

  • The i2000 software offers fax, pager, e-mail, and video features from one point-and-click interface. Users may retrieve messages from remote locations, or convert e-mail to voice for retrieval via phone. Users may also create a custom voice-mail system using the MenuStudio feature, and can set up an unlimited number of mailboxes as well as up to 40 speed-dial entries and personalized greetings.
  • The software supports traditional analog connectivity as well as dial-up, ISDN, and broadband connections for IP access. An upgrade is available to support up to four modems or connections. Video features include the ability to record video phone sessions, play video mail, and monitor a home or office through motion detection. A telephone, pager, or e-mail notification of the detected motion will be sent.

1745 Shea Center Dr., Ste. 200
Highlands Ranch, CO 80126

  • MSHOW.com's Web-based, interactive broadcasting services enable companies to collaboratively interact online through a standard Internet browser or telephone. The company's patent-pending technology platform architecture delivers rich media content to broadcast participants, based on their connectivity speeds.
  • Web-based presentations are delivered worldwide via narrowband and broadband channels. Additional features of the service include IP audio and video streaming, fully integrated audio conferencing bridges, and real-time voting and polling. The service also features firewall compatibility, follow-the-leader Web surfing, and 24x7 help desk and show management services.

Accord MGC-100
Accord Networks, Inc.
9040 Roswell Rd., Ste. 450
Atlanta, GA 30350-1877

  • This next-generation, H.323-compliant visual communications system enables real-time video conferencing over IP networks. It also supports the H.320 standard for ISDN-based conferencing, and the H.321 standard for ATM conferencing. The system features high call completion rates, ease of management, and a robust feature set that includes multi-way transcoding, touch-tone conference management, continuous presence, and an easy greet-and-guide capability.
  • Combining a broadband system architecture with a powerful reservation and management system, the MGC-100 offers a high-speed multimedia backplane, redundancy, hot-swappable modules, comprehensive diagnostics, and online software downloads. It supports four to 96 ports of IP or ISDN connectivity, and four to 80 ports of ATM connectivity.

885 Arapahoe Ave.
Boulder, Colorado 80302

  • This Web-based presentation system enables real-time, leader-controlled presentations that allow dispersed participants to participate in presentations and meetings from their desktops. Presentations may be developed using a Microsoft PowerPoint template, and video, animation, pre-recorded audio, and other features may be added.
  • E-Conference also provides presentation support, including show production management, audience connectivity testing, live tech support, pre-screening trial runs, quote comparisons, and audience feedback. 500 participants may be conferenced at one time, using 28.8 Kbps modem connections or faster.

Evoke (formerly Vstream)
1157 Century Dr.
Louisville, CO 80027

  • This business communication service brings together traditional conference calling with the visual features and control capabilities of the Internet. Thousands of participants may listen to a live or recorded Webcast of a video conference with synchronized slides, while actual participants interact via a regular phone call while collaborating on the Web.
  • Presentations are viewed through PowerPoint slides controlled by a moderator. The moderator also has the power to mute participants using Web controls, and can also track who is listening via the phone or Web in real time. Other features include the ability to send instant message questions to the moderator, and management and billing reports are e-mailed to the moderator immediately following a conference.

Encounter 3000
Northwest Park
63 Third Ave.
Burlington, MA 01803

  • This standards-compliant multimedia communications server system allows users to dynamically create and participate in real-time conferences while sharing and editing documents electronically. It may be used from any desktop with a Web browser and a standards-based conferencing client like Microsoft NetMeeting.
  • The Encounter 3000 family features the Encounter NetServer, a Multimedia Conference Server, the Encounter NetGate gateway, the Encounter Gatekeeper, and Encounter eCMS, a Web-based scheduling and management system. The system supports up to 64 users connected simultaneously, and multiple servers may be connected together across an organization.

MAX i.c.Live VCS
MAX Internet Communications, Inc.
8115 Preston Rd., Ste. 800
Dallas, TX 75225

  • MAX's Internet communications appliance offers true-motion, two-way synchronized audio and video over IP. About the size of a DVD player, the unit comes with a camera, a microphone, an on-screen menu for selecting services, and a remote control. It is easily set up with a connection to a broadband Internet source and a display device like a monitor or television.
  • The unit supports two-way video and streaming video simultaneously, through the patented Max i.c.Live Internet Media Processor technology. Other options include Dolby Digital audio coding and DVD output.

QuickVideo Suite
InfoValue Computing, Inc.
4 Westchester Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10523

  • This suite of scalable, video-enabling software solutions can play any video format on a Pentium PC across any LAN or WAN. It offers a modular design, so components may be used individually or as a full suite. It is comprised of the QuickVideo OnDemand (QVOD) software platform, QuickVideo Multicast for real-time broadcast of live or recorded videos, QuickVideo IntraWeb for distribution and management of videos over IP, and QuickVideo Archive featuring database tools.
  • QVOD features InfoValue's patented QuickVideo streaming technology, and has an open architecture for isochronous delivery of video over any IP-compatible network. It can deliver video streams at speeds of up to 480 Mbps from a Windows NAT PC server. QVOD can also serve hundreds of interactive video streams simultaneously.

Multipoint Conferencing Unit
(MCU) Release 6
Lucent Technologies
600 Mountain Ave.
Murray Hill, NJ 07974

  • The latest release of the MCU is available in a CX model, for basic video, audio, and data conferencing. The DX model has no capacity restrictions for conferencing, while the EX model is a full-featured system. The models can support up to 16 images on a screen simultaneously, and feature a Web-based conference scheduling tool, as well as faster and smoother speed matching and lip synchronization.
  • The units offer a Universal Conference Control (UCC) so that end users can change a conference's screen composition, mute or drop sites, and perform a roll call. The UCC also allows a transition from full-screen, voice-activated switching to panoramic view and Continuous Presence Plus screen composition. Other features include increased port capacity, and Executive Conferencing, for more dual panoramic views.

Video Conferencing Services
1100 First Ave.
King of Prussia, PA 19406

  • V-SPAN offers virtual conference services, and handles everything from scheduling to monitoring the conference so participants won't need to worry about compression, speed, and other details. Features include multipoint bridging, which provides continuous presence, UCC, teleconferencing, and T.120 data collaboration.
  • The service also features analog codec conversion, allowing legacy systems using SG3- or CTX-based algorithms to be converted to H.320 multipoint calls. Other features include gateway services for everything from public/private switched carrier access to Internet-based conferencing. V-SPAN also offers managed conference services, Internet streaming of any video conference, and worldwide scheduling and reservations.

MCU-323, Version 2.1
RADVision Inc.
575 Corporate Dr., Ste. 420
Mahwah, NJ 07430

  • The new version of RADVision's MCU-323 multipointconferencing unit offers continuous presence as well as H.263 video switching. It also supports the G.723.1 and G.729a�b codecs, and offers a built-in RADVision gatekeeper with Cisco proxy support. The system features a distributed topology using a multipoint controller and one or more multipoint processors for optimum system and network resource usage.
  • The MCU-323 can handle audio mixing and video switching or locking, and a network does not have to support multicast to allow conferences. Features include the ability to handle up to 15 simultaneous multimedia calls or as many as 24 voice-only calls. Multiple units may be used to increase the number of conferences, and call bandwidths can be scaled from 64 Kbps for voice-only calls to 1.5 Mbps for multimedia calls.

Obvious Video Portal Suite
Obvious Technology, Inc.
580 Howard St.
San Francisco, CA 94105

  • This set of tools and services allows businesses to create interactive video applications by linking streaming video to attachments like Web pages, image files, text, audio, and online business transactions. Companies may also generate an index and distribute interactive media via the Web using the Portal Suite.
  • Features include authoring and publishing tools for creating annotated, interactive video, and the ability for businesses to host their own video on Obvious servers. Frame-accurate distribution of video content is enabled through authoring and publishing software, and video may include any type of interactive media.

BT Meeting Place
Latitude Communications
2121 Tasman Dr.
Santa Clara, CA 95054

  • This joint solution from Latitude and BT Conferencing of British Telecom allows large organizations to hold more effective meetings from disparate locations. Designed for easy setup of e-conferences, users anywhere within an organization can access the service through desktop tools and workplace applications like Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes. They can also get support from the managed service helpdesk.
  • The service automatically notifies participants of meeting requests, arranges appropriate dates and times, and sends e-mail confirmations. It will also distribute specified documents to meeting participants, who join via a phone or the Web. Meetings are also recorded for playback via phone or on a corporate intranet in RealAudio format. The solution is offered as a managed service to British Telecom customers.

mm225 ISDN Business Videophone
Motion Media Technology Ltd.
Horton Hall
Horton, Bristol BS37 6QN UK

  • This stand-alone videophone is aimed at business users who want high-quality video conferencing. The product connects to ISDN lines, and combines the H.320 and H.324 standards for placing video calls to anyone connected via other ISDN or analog phone lines, or those using PC desktop systems.
  • The product also supports Microsoft NetMeeting, for two-way data sharing. The phone uses Lucent's AVP-III codec chip to support two-way conferencing and sustain video rates of up to 30 fps in 176x144 pixel resolution. The mm225 also features auxiliary inputs for transmission of other video sources like VCRs or camcorders. Images may also be captured and transmitted as still images with the click of a button. The phone comes with a 5" color LCD and a hands-free speakerphone with full-duplex echo cancellation.

NetXpress XL2000
Netier Technologies
1625 West Crosby Rd., Ste. 100
Carrollton, Texas 75006-6686

  • This thin-client desktop computer offers video conferencing and multicasting capability over IP, through a partnership with VCON, Ltd. The system offers 25�30 fps rates for high-resolution, near television broadcast-quality video. The system offers bandwidth management and quality of service features geared toward IP networks, which include audio/video lip synchronization with less than 100 ms delay.
  • Features include embedded software on a 72 MB flash disk, which includes NT Embedded, Citrix ICA Client 1.8 with Program Neighborhood, Opera Internet browser 3.6, Microsoft NetMeeting, and VCON's MeetingPoint client-side video conferencing software. The system also has a 333 MHz Pentium-class processor, 96 MB of RAM, and Intel 10/100 Base-T Ethernet connectivity.

comCenter Plus/comCenter Elite
Zydacron, Inc.
7 Perimeter Rd.
Manchester, NH 03103

  • The two latest additions to the comCenter family of meeting systems offer video conferencing and presentation tools in one integrated system. The products are powered by Zydacron's proprietary Z360 codec, which works with dual AVP-III video chips for audio/video processing. The Z360 can encode and decode at 30 fps, even for high-motion scenes, for near-broadcast quality video. It also offers full-duplex audio with echo cancellation.
  • Both new systems may be easily installed in corporate network environments, and offer local and remote access for maintenance, diagnostics, and upgrade capabilities. The comCenter Plus offers a large-screen 36" monitor, a tabletop microphone, a PTZ camera, wireless keyboard, and application software. It may be easily upgraded to the comCenter Elite, which offers an additional 36" composite monitor and a microphone.

PB-0100 Camera-On-a-Chip
Photobit Corporation
135 North Los Robles Ave., 7th Fl.
Pasadena, CA 91101

  • Designed for Internet cameras, PC video conferencing, and other small-format image capture applications, this active-pixel digital image sensor supports low-bandwidth communications. The sensor features Photobit's patented architecture, which captures photons, pixel readout, gain, industry-standard digital interfaces, and analog-to-digital conversion.
  • The sensor also employs Photobit's proprietary TrueBit Noise Cancellation and TrueColor Image Fidelity features. The PB-0100 can output color or monochrome full-frame, eight-bit digital video at up to 39 fps. It also includes electronic tilt, zoom, and pan, as well as auto-exposure with manual override. Full programmability via a digital serial interface is also featured.

Ridgeway Systems and Software, Inc.
9600 Great Hills Trail, Ste. 150W
Austin, TX 78759

  • This series of open, multimedia applications platforms supports calling to anyone with a phone, PC, and Internet connection. The architecture features a low latency, high bandwidth intelligent packet bus tuned to efficiently handle audio and video streams with minimal CPU overhead. Connectivity speeds of up to one Gbps are supported.
  • The platforms feature powerful DSP resources for handling video-oriented tasks like transcoding and frame combination, and they also feature object-oriented software with open APIs. The VX-120, the first in the series, supports 120 PSTN audio connections as well as 120 IP multimedia connections simultaneously. Units may be clustered to scale to several thousand sessions.

Videochat Your Site
White Pine Software, Inc.
542 Amherst St.
Nashua, NH 03063

  • The first commercial package of White Pine's CU-SeeMe Web technology lets Web sites embed live, interactive audio, video, and text chat capabilities into their sites. The package includes a software developer's kit for CU-SeeMe Web, which allows developers to integrate multimedia capabilities into a site-branded page.
  • The package also includes several templates for quick implementation of the technology, as well as White Pine's MeetingPoint server, which manages the back-end aspects of group conferencing and chat. The CU-SeeMe Web plug-in is currently available for non-commercial use only at the CU-SeeMe World Web site.

MediaConnect 6000 Version 2.0
VCON, Inc.
10535 Boyer Blvd., Ste. 300
Austin, TX 78758

  • The latest version of this group video conferencing series from VCON offer a dual-mode group system for IP and ISDN connectivity, as well as a new user interface and VoiceFinder technology. This tracking feature allows users to stand, walk around, and interact without worrying about controlling the camera, which follows their voices.
  • Features include the best possible frame rate and resolution over speeds up to 1.5 Mbps. Colorful 3-D icons lead users through the steps to set up a conference, creating an efficient user experience for even those who have had no prior training.

Lightning Strike
Vianet Technologies, Inc.
83 Mercer St., Third Floor
New York, NY 10012

  • This video compression software offers a solution for speed and image quality challenges in video conferencing. It is based on a proprietary video and image compression algorithm, and offers the capability to communicate through intranets, the Internet, or via point-to-point dialup connections.
  • Lightning Strike features a streaming video wavelet compression technology, which allows users to view streaming video or digitized video libraries. It may be used for e-commerce, engineering, and entertainment. Other uses include video-on-demand, video e-mail, image enhancement, and facial recognition.

M2-VMX and M2-AMX
VideoTele.com, Inc. (a Tektronix company)
P.O. Box 500
Beaverton, OR 97077

  • The latest releases of these audio and video demultiplexers enable service providers to better provision home entertainment service offerings. The products are tested for seamless integration with equipment from leading emission vendors, so service providers can roll out video, data, and telephony services to home consumers.
  • The M2-VMX accepts MPEG-2 encoded video channels at the digital head-end, which are already packaged as multiple program transport streams (MPTS) and encoded in variable bit rate format. It demultiplexes the input into individual programs, applying video flow management techniques. Those channels are then repackaged into single program transport streams (SPTS) and encapsulated into ATM packets.

InnoMedia, Inc.
90 Rio Robles
San Jose, CA 95134

  • The InfoView system is half the size of a VCR, yet creates a powerful videophone by merely connecting to a standard television and analog phone. The product features a high-quality camera and modem for simultaneous transmission of audio and video over a regular phone line. It is compatible with H.324-standard videophones.
  • Features include the ability to zoom, pan, and tilt, and the system can automatically answer and activate a remote InfoView station. Users can also go into privacy mode, where they can see others without being seen, and they also have the ability to freeze frames for high-quality still image snapshots. Other features include auto answer, adjustable quality settings, and an RCA video-in jack for hooking up an external camera.

Connex Presents
Connex International
40 Old Ridgebury Rd., Ste. 317
Danbury, CT 06810

  • Multimedia collaboration services from Connex enable Microsoft PowerPoint or Corel Presentations 8 slides to be broadcast live over the Internet to conference participants. The Connex Presents solution also offers interactive chat, polling, Web browsing, and Q&A integration.
  • The service covers point-to-point conferencing, multipoint bridging, and standards to non-standards-based connectivity. It features roll call, coordinator greeting and support throughout a conference, and participant information capture and reporting. Other features available include custom scripts, pre-taping integration, and passcode entry and security.

ViewStation FX
Polycom, Inc.
1565 Barber Lane
Milpitas, CA 95035

  • This new video conferencing system from Polycom offers near-television quality video and uses 60 fields per second video encoding to create lifelike interaction. Audio technology has also been enhanced in this product, for maximum clarity in large rooms. It also offers an embedded multipoint control unit (MCU) so users can setup multipoint conferences with the touch of a button.
  • The ViewStation FX offers the ability to call as many as four sites at 384 Kbps, or three sites at 512 Kbps, using full-motion 30 frames per second (fps) video calling. Other features include continuous presence, voice-activated switching, chair control, and one-button address book dialing. The system also offers an optional second remote-controlled, pan-tilt-zoom camera for focusing on specific individuals or capturing a large audience.

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