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April 1, 2005

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Conferencing Systems

Posted: 04/2005

Conferencing Systems


Hosting a conference call will feel like talking with people just across the table now that Polycom Inc.’s latest conferencing phone, the SoundStation2, features twice the loudness and 50 percent better microphone reception than the original SoundStation.

Polycoms upgraded SoundStation phone captures voices from 10 feet away.

“The SoundStation2 is unlike any “speaker phone” I have ever used,” says Jim Wolf, information systems project manager at Whirlpool Corp. “The voice quality is superb and we no longer have to repeat ourselves during a call, which makes meetings run much smoother.”

That’s the kind of praise Polycom was aiming to receive. “Our focus … is to provide solutions that make remote meetings as natural, effective and productive as being there,” says Sunil Bhalla, senior vice president and general manager of voice communications at Polycom.

The SoundStation2 lets speakers talk up to 10 feet away from the device, and in a normal voice. Other new features include a backlit LCD, seven-language caller ID, an address book for speed dialing and a cell phone connector. The phone also automatically reduces background noise in a room, whether that sound is coming from fans, projectors or heating or air conditioning units.

Polycom is selling the SoundStation2 through its channel partners for a suggested retail price of $599. Its price point and features are well-suited for SMBs.


In the ongoing search for the desktop video conferencing grail, Sony Electronics Inc. and GlowPoint Inc. are collaborating to provide users with unique features and services over IP networks.

The two corporations’ recent agreement means they will offer subscribers ways to video conference anywhere in the world, regardless of the network, technology or device being used.

The technology will run on Sony’s equipment using GlowPoint’s network expertise. The companies aim to bring more video communications to the desktop and even are developing initiatives to support IP video for broadcasters.

The Sony PCS-11 video conferencing system uses GlowPoints networking capabilities.

The GlowPoint-powered service is slated to be available by the middle part of this year. It will incorporate GlowPoint’s “All You Can See” unlimited video calling plans, as well as features including direct dial video numbers. Those numbers replace IP addresses with standard 10-digit telephone numbers. GlowPoint also has live video operator service, which connects callers to live video operators for assistance and information. “All You Can See” also includes a service called “My Video Meeting,” which gives each subscriber a personalized video number for spontaneous, multiparty video calls.

Subscribers further will be able to access GlowPoint’s video call assistant and video call mailbox services. The call assistant is a face in full-motion video that replaces static call-rejection error messages. GlowPoint says this gives subscribers a resolution to a problem, instead of leaving them frustrated if a call won’t go through.

The mailbox is a video answering machine that lets users greet incoming callers with a standard video message. On the other hand, subscribers also can record personalized, outgoing, full-motion video messages, and receive incoming video call messages when they are away from their video conferencing units. The system then notifies users via e-mail that a new video message has arrived.

“Sony is committed to a fresh approach to expand video communications within the conference room and extend it beyond the traditional office environment,” says Michael McCausland, vice president and general manager of Sony Electronics’ IP Communications division.

“We share the GlowPoint mission to make video an integral communications tool. … Sony now has the ability to more quickly introduce customer-driven video solutions tailored to our brand, product and distribution channels.”

Sony is installing the new video conferencing systems into its U.S. offices, including its building in New York.


ClearOne Communications says its new RAV - pronounced ‘rave’ - audio conferencing systems will make midmarket users sing its praises.

The company says RAV is the only system priced to fit between low-end tabletop audio conferencing phones and high-end installed-audio devices such as the ones found in boardrooms. RAV starts at approximately $2,599 and is a plug-and-play system.

The RAV 600 comes with two microphone pods.

The RAV 900 features three microphone pods.

The RAV 600 and 900 - differentiated only by the number of microphone pods per system - includes a pair of Bose speakers for wall or ceiling mounting. The system can be used for audio conferencing, to enhance the audio portion of a video conference, or as a group audio interface for Web conferencing, according to ClearOne. RAV’s input and output ports also link auxiliary audio sources to create a complete audio conferencing system.

RAV also interfaces with video conferencing sound systems. ClearOne asserts that video conferencing sound systems invariably are inadequate because a speaker sits on top of the monitor. RAV solves the problem with its plugand- play capabilities, ClearOne says, since the RAV 600 and 900 come with a serial port, Ethernet port, input for video and a USB port.

RAV’s software is based on Windows and features an internal Web server. It also has an audio mixer, full-room microphone and loudspeaker coverage - in walls and ceilings - and wireless tabletop control for better group conferencing.

Each RAV system consists of an audio mixer, wireless RF controller, microphone pods and speakers. The RAV 600 includes two microphone pods, while the RAV 900 comes with three microphone pods.


ClearOne Communications www.clearone.com
GlowPoint Inc. www.glowpoint.com
Polycom Inc. www.polycom.com
Sony Electronics Inc. www.sony.com

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