Tandberg expands videoconferencing line

Tandberg Monday rolled out three videoconferencing appliances targeted at the desktop and small group conferences and are all capable of H.264 video compression and AES encryption.

For desktop conferencing, the Tandberg 150 is a self-contain unit that features an 8.4-inch LCD screen, built-in high-resolution camera, speakers and microphone. The 150 can handle calls up to 512K bit/sec over an IP connection. An optional handset is available or users can use a headset/microphone for greater privacy. It does have AES encryption support for those needing the added security, but does not contain a built-in multipoint control unit (MCU) for hosting small conferences without the need for a bridge or conference hosting service.

Polycom, Tandberg's chief competitor, already offers a software-only endpoint for desktop conferencing that does not require specialized hardware, but Tandberg believes there is a place for an appliance on the desk. "You don't have to use your computer or start it when you want to do a video call," says Snorre Kjesbu, vice president of innovation at Tandberg. "You can have the computer next to you with information that you may need in the conversation."

Also, Tandberg is introducing the 1500 MXP and 2000 MXP units targeted at individual executives and conference attendees at small conference rooms, respectively. The 1500 MXP comes with a 17-inch XGA screen that can double as a computer monitor, automatically switching between PC and conferencing mode when a call comes in. It includes a camera, speakers and microphone as well as an optional built-in MCU that can connect four video endpoints and three phones simultaneously in a call. 802.11b wireless capability is also built in for those rooms without an Ethernet jack.

The 2000 MXP is similarly equipped as the 1500, but comes with a 23-inch LCD XGA screen. It too can double as a PC monitor, but is better suited for showing a local presentation to a group rather than every day PC use. Both the 1500 MXP and 2000 MXP can handle a call bandwidth up to 2M bit/sec.

Looking down the road to early next year, Tanberg says it will start rolling out firewall traversal technology that will allow individual units to tunnel through firewalls, a chief problem of IP conferencing today. The firewall technology, which will be available through a software upgrade, is the fruits of Tandberg's acquisition of Ridgeway Systems in May 2004.

"We need more transparent technologies behind the scenes to increase the usage of visual communications, especially between organizations," says Jean Roshower, director of marketing at Tandberg.

All three of the units are SIP ready, Kjesbu says, with full SIP support scheduled for the first quarter of 2005. Any of the MXP line of machines will be able to support SIP through a software upgrade.

Tandberg is already shipping the 150, 1500 MXP and 2000 MXP. The 150 is priced at US$2,990; the 1500 MXP starts at US$6,490; and the 2000 MXP starts at US$12,990. The optional MCU is priced at US$3,000.

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