Lucent launches software venture

Lucent Technologies has formed a new joint venture to create Internet-based collaboration software designed to enable voice and data communications among groups of 50 or more people using a wide range of computer and telephone devices.

The venture, called Persystant Technologies, is based in Eatontown, New Jersey, and co-owned with Unixpros, which develops software and integrates networks. Persystant will produce the BitRoom Collaboration System, a software server and set of applications.

Now being beta tested, the system allows the creation of "virtual environments" for users of laptops, multimedia PCs and wired or wireless phones, Lucent officials said yesterday. The conferencing system is designed primarily for audio and data-sharing, but offers limited video functions, company officials said.

The BitRoom system operates as a communication platform with Java-based software applications providing specific collaboration functions, including chat, the ability to share documents such as slides and presentations with a widespread group, and whiteboard capabilities.

The system uses a Windows NT server, scales in increments of 50 users and adheres to the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) T.120 and H.323 protocols. A Unix system will be available in the fourth quarter, company officials said. The base price for the system is $US35,000, not including PBX (private branch exchange) capabilities, officials said.

BitRoom Class 1.0, the first software application, currently available now to trial customers, is aimed at corporate training departments. Applications for auditorium presentations, help desks and virtual trade shows are slated for third-quarter release, when BitRoom Class 1.0 and the BitRoom server also are due to be officially launched.

System administrators establish which users have access to the system, offered either through dialling in to a password-protected BitRoom Web site or by calling into a conference bridge set up to host a BitRoom session. Administrators also can create virtual rooms, including libraries containing information and lounges, where co-workers and or students can interact in smaller groups.

Jay Thompson, chief executive officer of Persystant, would not disclose which customers are testing the system and BitRoom Class 1.0, but those details will be released soon.

The key difference between BitRoom and other teleconference products or Internet-based collaboration software is its integration of data and voice communication, Thompson said. For example, with BitRoom users can participate in the meeting, lecture or presentation either through a telephone or from a computer over the Web, so they don't all have to have Internet access, he said. The technology behind the system was created at Bell Labs, which is part of Lucent.

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