LifeSize Announces Enhancements to Its HD Video Conferencing Offerings

Latest system software allows exchange of data files during video conferences -- without cable swapping.

By Stuart J. Johnston | Posted Jul 23, 2010
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Austin, Texas-based video conferencing system vendor LifeSize (now a subsidiary of Logitech, Inc.) this week announced new and updated infrastructure, management, and endpoint capabilities for the company's low cost high-definition (HD) video conferencing systems.

Lifesize (see our previous coverage) released version 4.7 of its system software, which now allows users to share data such as spreadsheets and slide presentations during video conferences -- without swapping cables -- using LifeSize's Passport and LGExecutive systems, the company said in a statement.

Announced in early June, the LGExecutive unit, which combines the company's video conferencing "appliance" with an HD monitor, is due out later this quarter, according to the statement.

Additionally, version 2 of the company's LifeSize Desktop software for video conferencing from a PC or laptop (available in August), now supports both data sharing as well as adding 720p, 30-frames-per-second HD communications. The software is free to LifeSize customers. "[These] high definition video conferencing offerings and product enhancements [are designed] to help enterprises, teleworkers, mobile employees and executives collaborate more efficiently, with less hardware and more robust management capabilities," the firm's announcement said.

Also coming this month is LifeSize Virtual Link, which lets you share data over the network with your video conferencing colleagues without swapping video cables. That is an important addition, according to one analyst.

"A very high percentage of video conferences include slide presentations," Ira Weinstein, analyst and partner at Wainhouse Research, an analysis firm that follows rich media and unified communications technologies, told Small Business Computing.

"They've come out with a software solution that lets you connect to the system via IP [Internet Protocol]," Weinstein added.

Both the Passport and LGExecutive units come as dedicated hardware appliances that run a version of Linux.

The Passport is a sleek black unit about the size of a small tablet computer, while the LGExecutive, powered by LifeSize, comes as a 24-inch LG flat panel display with the appliance built into it. The company also has the LifeSize Desktop software that works on both Macs and PCs.

Mouse maker Logitech, which among other products also makes Web cams, bought the seven-year-old LifeSize last December.

Low Cost HD Conferencing
Though not strictly designed for small businesses, LifeSize's products can fit very well in that area. "They pack a lot of performance into a very competitive package that's pretty inexpensive," Weinstein said.

For example, although video conferencing systems can easily run to the tens of thousands of dollars to implement -- a LifeSize Passport offers HD communications for well less than that. One small perk -- the LifeSize software also supports Skype calls.

"The appliances start at [about] $2,500," Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing for LifeSize, told Small Business Computing.

In fact, in a quick check of prices on ecommerce sites, a LifeSize Passport with an HD camera starts at approximately $2,799.99. Meanwhile, LifeSize's LGExecutive will cost $2,999, according to the company.

"Price point has always been a strong point in the LifeSize line," Weinstein said. "As budgets are cut, travel is curtailed, and there is more use [of video conferencing]," he added.

That's Helmbrecht's point. Video conferencing as a business communications tool can drive productivity and help a business stand out at a time when many small businesses are cutting back on travel budgets.

"The productivity benefit is important for small businesses that are constrained by budget so this [inexpensive HD conferencing] can be a real differentiator," Helmbrecht added.

This article originally appeared in SmallBusinessComputing.com. Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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