CUseeMe extending videoconferencing interface

CUseeMe Networks Inc. Monday will roll out a new version of its videoconferencing server designed to integrate with Microsoft Exchange.

The company hopes to simplify the deployment of videoconferencing to corporate desktops with its Videoware Application Server. Videoware, which supports the H.323 video and T.120 data standards, is designed to be a central hub that can serve many clients.

CUseeMe is trying to carve out a space in the collaboration market that has long been dominated by data exchange through applications like Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange. The market also has seen a rise in popularity of Web-based collaboration platforms such as eRoom, iManage and Intraspect.

CUseeMe thinks video should become a staple tool in any collaboration package.

That will likely be a hard sell given that only about 80,000 desktop videoconferencing units were sold to the enterprise in 2000, representing some US$53 million in revenue, according to Perey Consulting. By the year 2004, the market will only have grown to 170,000 units shipped and $80 million in revenue.

Market growth is stunted by bandwidth concerns, but also by the complexity and cost of the technology. CUseeMe is attacking the latter issues by integrating with existing systems.

"The market needs a cost effective, easily deployed and user-friendly product in order to go beyond the niche markets it's been in up to date," says Joe Gagan, an analyst with the Yankee Group. "To build that into an existing infrastructure like Exchange is important. It makes it easier for IT."

The server comes in two versions, one that integrates with Exchange and Exchange Conferencing Server, and a stand-alone version that uses a browser client.

The Exchange version uses Outlook as an interface for scheduling and participating in video and audio conferences.

"The scheduling piece makes it easier to use," says Jim Chamberlain, manager of software engineering for AZ Technology, a systems integrator. "There is no requirement for a special interface to schedule conferences." AZ Technology, which deployed and maintains a CUseeMe audio conferencing infrastructure for NASA, is evaluating the Videoware software. "Outlook makes it much easier."

The Videoware server automatically delivers an Outlook plug-in from the Videoware server and uses Exchange 2000's instant messaging features to alert users to conferences.

"We think that conferencing should be embedded in applications that are available today," says Roger Wallman, director of product management for CUseeMe. Videoware, which runs on Windows NT and 2000, Sun Solaris and Linux, also integrates with PictureTel and Polycom video conferencing systems.

The Yankee Group's Gagan says Videoware may be a good fit for enterprises that have already invested in a major system, such as PictureTel, and now want to include desktops in select corporate videoconferences, such as a speech by the CEO.

Videoware will compete with Universal Serial Bus plug-and-play desktop videoconferencing units from Vcon, Polycom and Sorenson that sell for up to $900.

Videoware is priced at $39,000 for the server. Licenses for 1,000 users are priced at $49 per user.


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