LifeSizes first external HD video conferencing bridge plugs a hole in its product line and extends its disruptive low-cost, high-performance proposition.

October 20, 2010

4 Min Read
LifeSize Brings Low-Cost HD to Video Bridges

By Khali Henderson

LifeSize, a division of Logitech, announced Wednesday the launch of its first external high-definition video conferencing bridge both plugging a hole in its product line and extending its disruptive low-cost, high-performance proposition.

The LifeSize Bridge 2200 16-port multipoint control unit (MCU) will be globally available by the end of October for a suggested retail price of $64,999, which the company said is the lowest per-port price ($4,062) in the market and one-third the price of leading HD bridges.

[LifeSize] has consistently increased its market penetration over the last few years and has been instrumental in bringing low-cost, high-performance HD systems to the market. The introduction of this HD video conferencing bridge — at a fraction of the price of what its competitors charge for HD bridges — is expected to further support LifeSize’s growth in this market,” said Roopam Jain, principal analyst covering conferencing and collaboration for Frost & Sullivan.

Multiparty calling is not new to LifeSize; it has been offering embedded bridges since 2005. The LifeSize Team and LifeSize Room systems support four-way and eight-way conferencing, respectively. In addition, it offers external bridges under an OEM agreement with Radvision, one of the video infrastructure market leaders behind Tandberg (Cisco) and Polycom.

The trouble with this situation was twofold, said Rich De Brino, director of advanced solutions for Right Systems Inc., Lacey, Wash., a LifeSize VAR that has been pushing the manufacturer to make its own bridge. First, he claimed, the quality of other makers external bridges are not on par with what customers have come to expect from the internal LifeSize bridges. Second, the cost of other bridges is high. The hardest thing about selling bridges is the price point,” he said, noting that its common to spend $200,000 for 30 ports or $90, 000 for 15. Customers dont want to do it. They will make do without it, or try to budget it for next year.”

De Brino predicted the LifeSize Bridge with the equivalent HD quality and at the lower price point will change the market by enabling more companies to buy bridges and also to do so with budget leftover to purchase more endpoints to video-enable more people or locations within their organizations. Well probably end up selling more endpoints since they wont blow half their budget on the bridge,” De Brino said.

This, apparently, is the desired effect if you buy into LifeSizes mission statement: LifeSize envisions a world where organizations empower their users to collaborate freely through the highest quality HD video experience.

About the quality apparently thats the secret sauce. While the company was able to leverage the technology in its embedded bridges, externalizing it was not a trivial process,” said Travis McCollum, LifeSize Bridge product manager. In fact, he said, it took two years of core development to make it work with the desired quality and price performance required to go head to head with competitors and to attract underserved customers that have not yet invested in video bridges.

The LifeSize Bridge supports any codec, speed, resolution, layout or port without losing capacity or HD video quality. In addition the quality of multiparty calls is not based on the lowest common denominator. LifeSize has developed a new MCU architecture utilizing flat capacity (as opposed to shared capacity) that enables all users to have the same rich HD experience.  

LifeSize uniquely supports 200 resolutions rather than lower the frame rate, which McCollum said has a far greater impact on the user experience.

One of the selling points of the LifeSize Bridge is that it also can work in a centralized or decentralized model. So, it can be placed logically at a corporate headquarters of a domestic company, for example, or in the regional offices of a multinational.

The bridges can be daisy-chained, but max out at 16 simultaneous ports, e.g., with two bridges, there is the possibility of two 16-way calls or 16 two-way calls, but not one 32-way call. However, in a video conference, the practical use tends toward smaller groups, sources said.

The LifeSize Bridge is available to the channel through distributors such as SYNNEX and TechData. The company also supports 1,500 VARs directly.

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