Siemens enriches OpenScape UC suite with desktop video

In December of last year, Enterprise VoIPplanet reported on the launch of Siemens OpenScape UC 2011 edition (see our coverage here).

The big news then was the availability of a brand new Web Collaboration suite that integrates with the other OpenScape UC functionality, but can also be deployed and run independently.

This feature-rich—and affordable—collaboration suite, in addition to providing easy-to-use file and desktop sharing and audio conferencing, also enabled multiparty HD (high-definition, or 720 lines-per-inch) videoconferencing. Heady stuff.

Well, Siemens has been busily at work, and earlier this month, the company announced a new version of OpenScape UC (version 6).

With version 6, developers have extracted the multiparty desktop HD video component from the Web Collaboration suite and embedded it directly in the core OpenScape UC application software.

“There’s no separate application, no proprietary appliance or device,” Siemens vice president of global solutions marketing Ross Sedgewick told Enterprise VoIPplanet. “It’s embedded as a software solution in our existing UC application server and client.”

Like the rest of OpenScape, the video component is based on open standards—in this case, SIP and H.264, the latter being an industry-standard codec that is heavily used in room-based and telepresence systems.

For this reason OpenScape’s video is interoperable with quite a wide variety of third party SIP endpoints (in addition to the OpenScape Desktop, Web, and Mobile clients), and even with room-based HD and telepresence systems from such vendors as Polycom, LifeSize, Tandberg, and Radvision.

Sedgewick pointed out that OpenScape Videoconferencing fills an important industry gap: “We fit in between the common point-to-point video like FaceTime or Skype and higher-end room systems, which are capable and secure, but they’re expensive, complex, and selectively available to people in the enterprise,” he said.

By contrast, Sedgewick said, OpenScape video is available to all OpenScape UC users, both for spontaneous ad hoc use and for more formal, scheduled conferences. “Ours is a very high value solution where anybody with OpenScape UC can easily participate.”

And unlike the more sophisticated room systems, ease of use is fundamental to the OpenScape Videoconferencing application. “It’s a very simple solution—very conceptually simple—just an extension of your media mix in your UC environment. If you’re used to using the audio conferencing, this basically works the same way,” Sedgewick said.

There are a couple of features worth mentioning: One is what Siemens calls its “continuous presence” display, in which the video screen is divided to show all the participants (within reason), all of the time. “With competitors’ systems, you typically see single image of whoever’s talking; when someone else talks, the picture switches to that person,” Sedgewick explained. “You don’t get the collaborative feel of a multiparty conference. You can’t judge reactions well when you don’t see everyone.”

The other feature is that the Videoconferencing system supports audio-only participants, in addition to those with access to video cameras. This means people can still join a conference even when they’re out and about, or otherwise out of reach of the necessary equipment.

And, speaking of audio, Siemens’ HD audio capability, dubbed Audio Presence, has been integrated into both the audio and video conference bridges.

According to Sedgewick, current customers (those with UC Suite version 4 or newer) will get automatic upgrades at no cost. “New customers will get a compelling value proposition because the server side and client software is included,” Sedgewick said. “There’s no additional charge. The only charge is licensing the ports or simultaneous channels.”

And that cost, Sedgewick said, is very low, compared to much of the competition.

“In a typical deployment, our solution is a fraction of the costs in terms of licensing the server and the ports or channels—a fraction of the cost of room-based systems or point solutions from leading vendors that have dedicated appliances to run videoconferencing.”

Specifically, according to Siemens promotional material, the cost of OpenScape video is one-fifth to one-tenth of the cost of licensing and MCU (control unit) for well-known brands of room-based HD video and telepresence systems. With Siemens OpenScape UC, licensing for 15 simultaneous video channels (each of which can accommodate multiple participants) runs about 12,000 Euros.

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