CounterPath to Release eyeBeam 1.5

Leading softphone gets major improvements to its core engine—plus enhancements to the user experience.

By Ted Stevenson | Posted Mar 15, 2006
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Vancouver, BC-based CounterPath Solutions, Inc. announced the impending release of a major upgrade to its flagship softphone, eyeBeam, which, like many other VoIP clients these days, supports video, instant messaging, and presence in addition to voice.

According to CounterPath chairman and CEO, Mark Bruk, eyeBeam 1.5 will have some new features that users will see and interact with, but the majority of changes are under the hood. "Over the last year and quarter, we have been building some core technology into the base system," he told VoIPplanet.com. "The interface hasn't changed much, but the core engine has changed radically over the last year."

The former category includes an enhanced contact manager that integrates with Microsoft Outlook. Among other niceties, this allows users to make calls directly to their Outlook contacts.

More significant, to CEO Bruk's mind, is a feature called 'zero-touch' configuration—designed with the road warrior in mind. People who are on the go with a laptop, Bruk, said, typically use a number of different audio and video devices in the different locations where they'll use the softphone. "People have had trouble with a lot of the software out there, configuring these myriad of devices that are always changing against their core softphone setups," he said.

For example, in one location, a user might be using a video cam with a microphone and a microphone-equipped headset at the same time. In another, the same user might have speakers attached but also be using a headset. Zero-touch automatically determines the best configuration of the currently attached devices, and, over time, "the system remembers and learns what devices you want to prioritize for using for your speakers, your microphone, your ringing device, and your camera device," Bruk said.

The under-the-hood enhancements, out of end-user sight, are nonetheless also all about the user experience, Bruk told VoIPplanet. "We're targeting the tier one telcos as our customer base, who are going out to their consumers with either a retail consumer-level offering or a business-level offering," he pointed out.

A major concern to those telco customers is security, and eyeBeam 1.5 is addressing that concern, adding security in the form of encryption—both of the signaling stream (using TLS or Transport Layer Security) and the authentication and voice stream media (using Secure Real-time Transport Protocol—SRTP).

Also new in eyeBeam 1.5 is enhanced quality of service capability—packet prioritization for both voice and video, along with some CounterPath-developed firewall-traversal technology called XTunnels.

More revolutionary, however, is the inclusion of performance management capabilities—a first for softphone technology, according to Bruk. With telcos and other service-providers in mind—those that control and manage the network over which the VoIP service is running—CounterPath has integrated a performance-monitoring client into the softphone. The client (VQmon from Telchemy) reports the endpoint-eye view of network status back to the core network. "If there is some degradation, they can actually get reporting out of the endpoint that will allow them to possibly understand what is causing the degradation and where in their network this issue is arising," Bruk explained.

The new release also boasts some new codecs, Bruk mentioned, adding that more than 20 codecs are included with eyeBeam, the software switching codecs on the fly as network conditions dictate. One of the new codecs is Broadcom's BroadVoice32 or BV32, a new wide-band codec for high voice quality, unique in that it is indemnified and guaranteed not to infringe on any patents—a vulnerability that many codecs are subject to.

eyeBeam clients are available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Pocket PC. Newly announced version 1.5 will be available in the second quarter of 2006.

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