WR Bulletin Vol 7 Issue #19 18-May-06


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WR Bulletin Vol 7 Issue #19 18-May-06

  1. 1. The Wainhouse Research Bulletin ONLINE NEWS AND VIEWS ON VISUAL COLLABORATION AND RICH MEDIA COMMUNICATIONS As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to your colleagues. To be added to our FREE automated email distribution list, simply visit www.wainhouse.com/bulletin. Andrew W. Davis, andrewwd@wainhouse.com News in Brief Digital Video Enterprises (DVE) has launched a new personal videoconferencing system dubbed the Executive Telepresence System (ETS). The system is based on the combination of DVE’s unusual display technology that hides the camera behind the display system, thereby creating an environment with good eye contact, and the LifeSize Room video codec for high definition video. Continuing its tradition of FREE, Free Conferencing Corporation of America, announced Simple Voice Box 2.0, the industry's first FREE unlimited length voice mailbox system. SVB 2.0 proves the capability to easily record a message and allow individuals and groups to dial-in, listen and even respond by leaving a voice mail. New features include: support for RSS feeds via podcast, superior voice quality, improved voice box controls, an easy to use online account management tool, message notifications via email, and an optional listener response feature. With the new online voice box administration feature in version 2.0, users can log in via the web and download, listen and/or delete new or old messages, and upload new greetings as well. Additionally, the service provides the capability to access all messages via telephone. Visual Nexus has announced two new deals. The company has appointed IP video specialists A&T Network Systems of India to represent Visual Nexus. Visual Nexus also reports that EDF Trading, an energy trading company, has installed the company’s collaboration solution to improve communications between international operations. Konftel has joinded the Avaya Developer Connection program. Konftel is the developer of the Konftel 50 and Konftel 60W conference telephones, portable conferencing sets that work with fixed and mobile phones and PCs. Both solutions have been tested for seamless interoperability with Avaya 2400 Series and 4600 Series IP telephones. As a result, businesses can connect Konftel 50 and Konftel 60W conferencing solutions directly to their Avaya endpoints via a small switchbox without having to make complicated adjustments. Pactolus announced that Teletek, Turkey's leading IP carrier and Verscom, a top network developer/integrator in the Middle East, have selected Pactolus' highly scalable & customizable carrier IP voice services suite and SIP service creation/development platform. ACT Teleconferencing, which rolled out its ReadyConnect Video service in Asia earlier this year, is now introducing the service in the UK. ReadyConnect is an automated video bridging service based on technology developed by Applied Global Technologies. The technology also supports streaming and recording of video sessions. All functions can be controlled by the videoconferencing endpoint hand held remote. The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-1 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006
  2. 2. Another Look at Consumer Videoconferencing Worldgate Ojo: We had a chance this week to look at two consumer videoconferencing products up close and personal. We finally got our hands on the Ojo from WorldGate Communications. This slick videophone appliance was designed with the technophobic user in mind. Simple Simple. Once you plug in the RJ45 IP cable from your router and the power cord, you just call WorldGate (on your PSTN phone) to initiate service (have your credit card handy) and have the technician make sure all is working correctly. The service is $14.95 per month, for which you get a server that translates your telephone number into an IP address. The service is Ojo-to-Ojo only, and no multipoint. The videophone really emulates the standard telephone with a built-in answering machine. For example, Ojo stores its own phonebook, it also stores an outgoing video message, and can record about 20 minutes of incoming video messages. We tried it out and it worked as advertised. Two versions are available. The black 900 model sells for $399, but is currently available with a $150 rebate coupon. This is the model we had. The silver 1000 model costs $100 more, but also has a PSTN connection so it can really replace your telephone. The way this works: when you dial a number, the Ojo Service determines whether the number is a registered Ojo videophone and if it is, it makes the connection to the Ojo IP videophone being called. If it isn’t (for example, say you are calling to order a Pizza at the local shop), the Service signals your local device to send the call out over the PSTN. Comments Ojo is the proverbial “grandma” videophone. Simple. The phone answers incoming calls in audio-only mode and a screen pop informs you to hit the “select’ button to start the camera. – very user friendly and sensible since you don’t always want to be seen. There are separate audio and video mute buttons as well. However there is no headphone jack or handset option, at least on the model 900 we tested, so privacy is not really an option. We thought the video was more than adequate, though it takes some getting used to the 5” screen with a strange aspect ratio. The audio on a few calls was fine; but on most there was a noticeable white noise hiss that we found extremely distracting. The Wainhouse Research Bulletin would like We were curious that the product marketing you to join us in thanking our 2006 sponsors manager we spoke to didn’t have one in his who help keep distribution of the WRB free: office…. Hmmmmm. Ojo is available on line and Aethra LifeSize in selected retail outlets. Bottom line: this is an interesting product with excellent ease-of-use and AGT MVC very reasonable price-performance. But it still Avistar RADVISION suffers from the “who you going to call?” Codian SPL problem. You can call Ojo subscribers only. If Compunetix Sony grandma wants to see the grandkids, you need to buy two Ojo phones and two Ojo monthly Convoq TANDBERG subscriptions. While the service isn’t that DSTMedia Ubiquity expensive, it doesn’t provide much either, Huawei Visual Nexus especially if your calling audience is so limited. inSORS WebDialogs SightSpeed V5.0 Beta I also got a quick look at Konftel AB Wire One SightSpeed V5.0 beta (the official release is set for July). Like Ojo, SightSpeed is a service. Unlike way fine print: Sponsorship of the WR Bulletin in no The implies that our sponsors endorse the opinions Ojo, SightSpeed basic service is free, and expressed in the WRB. Nor does it imply that the SightSpeed is PC-based. So if grandma can’t Bulletin endorses their products or services. We handle Windows or a Macintosh, this won’t be a remain an equal opportunity critic. The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-2 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006
  3. 3. good solution for her. But SightSpeed has gone to great lengths to make this videoconferencing application and its user interface as simple as it can be. Behind the scenes however, SightSpeed uses proprietary technology to deliver outstanding audio and video quality with very tight lip synch and low delay at DSL-type bandwidths. (The company will be supporting H.263 and SIP in the future, though it is not exactly clear where these developments will lead.) With SightSpeed, you get a buddy list and one-click calling, but video calls are limited to other SightSpeed subscribers (remember, though, that subscriptions are free); so while you still have the “who you going to call?” problem, you can get others to sign up without incurring costs. Of course, your buddies will need to buy a camera if they want to send video. The free service also includes video mail that recipients can open in a flash-enabled browser (see screenshot of a video mail sent to me by CEO Peter Csathy), video blog recording, and a new community calling function. The video mail uses SightSpeed streaming servers, not mail attachments. The for-fee service ($5/month or $50/year) adds multipoint (up to 4), longer video recording and storage, and a free webcam. SightSpeed 5.0 adds a PSTN connection that appears completely analogous to Skype-In and Skype-Out. You can also select a PC-to-PC communication mode that is just voice. Version 5 will also have an enhanced contact list that shows status, presence, and includes one-click connection buttons. The new software includes a new video codec (H.263) with many quality improvements as well as enhancements to the company’s firewall traversal techniques. The business model here is pretty intriguing, but one familiar to CEO Csathy who came to the company from MusicMatch. The strategy is to get very large numbers of users of the free service, and then convert some percentage to paying customers. I think MusicMatch went down this path and got to about $60 million in revenues before being acquired by Yahoo!. SightSpeed’s approach here is to partner with companies like Creative Labs (webcams) and Sonic Solutions (Roxio) who touch millions of customers a year as well as with cable operators looking for a value added service for their broadband customers. It’s all a numbers game. But unlike products in years past, I believe SightSpeed has hit the price-performance-ease of use metric where videoconferencing can be a genuine consumer application. Having said that, the company tells me that 30% of its customers are small/medium businesses. SightSpeed screen shot showing call control tab SightSpeed screen shot showing PSTN out dialing The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-3 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006
  4. 4. Wainhouse Research Summit Update The Wainhouse Research Summit has become the industry's premiere networking event, with conferencing professionals, integrators, and vendors interacting over plans, successes, difficulties, and future intentions in voice, video, and web/data collaboration products and services. The 2006 Summit, with the theme of Unified Collaboration and IP Communications, begins with presentations by WR analysts on the state of the industry and then follows with perspectives from enterprise and SME end users, including Charles River Ventures, Pfizer, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Legal Seafoods, and North Network. Presenters include CIOs and IT managers as well as video professionals and will discuss implementations of VoIP, videoconferencing, and webcasting, as well as IP networking strategies. The Summit agenda also includes two presentations from independent consultants/columnists as well as interesting views from Microsoft and Cisco (or is it Cisco vs. Microsoft?) together with our standard interactive panel discussions. The previous events were sellouts, and space is limited again this year, so plan ahead, and book early. Hotel rooms will definitely sell out. Details at www.wainhouse.com/wrsummit. Register online while space still permits. Continuing on the success of last year’s event, the first day (July 19) features a Technology Showcase that includes short presentations and hands-on demonstrations of a wide variety of products and services for enterprise conferencing and collaboration. Attendees will be able to see for themselves in a side-by-side comparison a range of desktop video products, sophisticated IM-based interfaces, and web-based collaboration solutions. The WR Summit is a highly interactive event. So bring your tough questions and be prepared to walk away with a new view of where IP communications and conferencing and collaboration solutions are headed in the next 2-3 years. This year’s Gold sponsors are AGT, Arel, LifeSize, Masergy, MCI, Microsoft, Polycom, RADVISION, and TANDBERG. Technology showcase participants (July 19) include Arel, Cisco, Codian, inSORS, Masergy, MyVRM, Netbriefings, Polycom, Radvision, Starbak, Tandberg, VerizonBusiness, Wire One. The event will be webcast this year as well. Webcasting services are being provided by Netbriefings while streaming and videoconferencing will be over Masergy’s MPLS network. We have made special arrangements with the Colonnade Hotel for a preferred room rate for the first 50 room of $165 per night. Rooms are nearly sold out already. Featured Presentation: Streamlining Business Processes with Unified Communications The average worker uses over ten different types of communication devices and applications. Yet with all these tools, it's still difficult to keep up with the pace of business. The fact is conducting business has become more complex due to increased workforce mobility and virtualization. The Cisco Unified Communications system integrates core communications tools, including telephony, video, web conferencing and messaging, with presence and personalization functionality to enable unprecedented levels of business agility and productivity. The solution addresses communications complexity for more effective communications that help streamline business processes. This session, presented by Vickie McGovern, Director Unified Communication Applications at Cisco, will describe and quantify communications challenges and unified communications benefits. People & Places BT Conferencing, Rob Bellmar is leaving the company; Tom Hamilton, acting Head of Global Operations and Infrastructure; Mark Hopwood, acting Head of UK CMC Operations. Viseon, David Hahn, VP Engineering The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-4 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006
  5. 5. One on One with LifeSize CEO Craig Malloy I’ve had a chance over the past two months to gain some personal experience with high definition videoconferencing, courtesy of LifeSize Communications. I can say this - it’s a whole new experience and one that I believe many end users will want for themselves. The videoconferencing industry today is only on the first step of HD, and the products will certainly improve and mature over time, but I have to admit, the images can be breathtaking and the sound is outstanding. From background discussions I have had with several vendors and several other engineers, I’ve come to conclude that HD is much harder than anybody thought. It’s not just a few more pixels; it’s a whole new aspect ratio (16x9), new camera designs, and with H.264 video at full frame rates, we have significant processing challenges. Well, it’s been a year since LifeSize announced the first HD products. It’s no secret that some of the first LifeSize systems were rough around the edges, but many of the problems seem to be behind them, and a new software release is just a few weeks away. I thought I would contact CEO Craig Malloy to discuss the trials and tribulations of 1) HD and 2) being the new kid on the block. Part of this interview took place at 1 Mbit/sec in a (flawless) point-to-point LifeSize video call; the remainder was a three-way call using the embedded MCU in Craig’s system. WRB: You announced your first set of products about one year ago. What's happened in the interim? CM: Our most important achievement over the past year is to ship the world’s first high- definition video communication product, LifeSize Room. We first demonstrated it last year at the N+I show in Las Vegas. It took us until December to get it customer ready. We’ve been shipping now for more than 5 months. We have also signed and trained 39 direct resellers in 20 countries and our sales momentum is starting to build. WRB: Several of the products announced a year ago are not yet shipping. Critics would say you underestimated the engineering challenge. What would you say? CM: I’d say that it was quite a challenging project. We simultaneously invented a low cost high-definition video communication camera, a feature rich HD codec capable of producing 1280x720 30fps H.264 video at 1mbps, and invented the world’s best conference phone. We have made some sacrifices with other parts of our product line to ensure that LifeSize Room was the best video communication product ever built, and it is. The rest of our line is coming along nicely, and we have some very compelling high definition video products coming over the next 12 months. WRB: Most videoconferencing users are used to 384 kbps and might object to a requirement to provide 1-4 Mbps for video. Are you finding bandwidth requirements to be a problem? CM: The main reason that most video calls are made at 384Kbps-512Kbps is that the picture never gets any better even if you call at 2Mbps. CIF is CIF and video calls look like a VHS tape that you left out in the yard all winter. We have spoken to hundreds of resellers and end- users and bandwidth is rarely, if ever, an issue. And for the small number of users whose networks are not yet capable of 1Mbps calls today, our products provide substantially better resolution and picture quality at any bandwidth. 768Kbps calls are just slightly less than HD resolution and 512Kbps calls are the resolution of a DVD movie. We make hundreds of calls a week to locations around the globe over the open internet at 1-2Mbps and in the vast majority of cases, the calls are perfect, without any packet loss. It’s really quite remarkable. It would cost more to call those on an analog phone. The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-5 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006
  6. 6. WRB: What kinds of people have bought LifeSize videoconferencing to date: customers who have videoconferencing experience and appreciate the improved video quality of HD; or new customers who had no videoconferencing prior to LifeSize. CM: We’ve had both kinds of customers. The most fun we have is doing side by side demonstrations with the low resolution systems users have today. Most of the time the reaction is something like “that’s amazing, I didn’t know that was possible” or “that’s the best video call I have ever seen”. Andrew, I think that’s what you told me when we installed the LifeSize system in your home office. New customers to our industry usually expect video calls to look like TV, and now like HDTV, and they are pleased that a product finally meets their expectations. We have found lots of new applications that we had not even previously considered, like art museums, the “Grossology” project of the National Science Foundation and retail and clothing design firms where a designer wants to remotely see the texture of fabric or the quality of stitching. WRB: I understand that interoperability is still a problem for LifeSize. What are you doing to address this important issue? CM: Interoperability is an on-going project for every manufacturer. That’s why the IMTC sponsors interop events at least once per year. As you might imagine, the interoperability matrix we need to meet in our QA process is quite large and is growing exponentially with all the features, products, and software releases that are constantly being released. We are in the process of releasing our 4th software release, 2.0 and have excellent interoperability for virtually all of the most important items. We understand, as we did at ViaVideo with the ViewStation, that as the new guy the interoperability burden is on us, and we accept that. WRB: TANDBERG has announced that their products are HD-capable; and Polycom has stated that they will have an HD endpoint soon. Have these announcements dulled your market impact and slowed sales? CM: We announced our products last April and have now shipped hundreds of high-definition LifeSize room systems to customers around the world during the past six months. Polycom, I believe, announced their HD product direction last year as well and last time I checked all they had was a white paper and a PowerPoint presentation. No one else has even been able to show, even in a controlled environment, true high definition H.264 1Mbps video calls. I think they are finding out now that it’s a lot harder than they thought, and to do it right requires a complete hardware and software re-architecture of their product line, not to mention an HD camera optimized for the application. I actually hope they start shipping something soon as then the entire market will shift to HD and we will have the best product line by a wide margin. WRB: How would you describe your distribution strategy? CM: We know that others will eventually have good HD products and to have the leadership position in the industry to which we aspire requires more than just great product development. Sound distribution strategy, great marketing, outstanding pre and post sales support and high- quality, low cost manufacturing are just as important to us as product development. Our distribution strategy has two basic tenets. First, find the best resellers and distributors in each region of the world based on their sales, service, and business practices. Secondly, develop our reseller programs to incorporate limited distribution in regions, pricing integrity on the product, delivery of highly qualified leads through our marketing initiatives and not compete with our resellers on service. So far it’s going very well. We’ve had a few hiccups in delivery in Q1 which caused some angst for our resellers, but those issues are behind us now and we are shipping in volume. © 2006 Wainhouse Research 112 Sumner Road, Brookline, MA 02445 USA Tel +1 617.975.0297 Email to: editor@wainhouse.com PR to: news@wainhouse.com Free subscriptions: www.wainhouse.com The Wainhouse Research Bulletin Page-6 Vol. 7 #19, May 18, 2006