back to article Video conferencing gets cheaper, nastier easier

HP has slashed the entry price for its top-end video conferencing platform as it tries to convince businesses that it is no longer an unaffordable luxury. The big hardware vendors - most noticeably Cisco, HP and Polycom - have been trying to flog pricey systems which they call telepresence - high-end purpose-built …


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  1. Greg

    Sweet Bejesus!

    That's a LOT of money! I could grab a brilliant pair of plasmas/cameras and a big fat net line for way less than that. What exactly are they charging for?

  2. Chris


    We had one of these Halo things set up at a few of our sites a while back - I had the chance to use it recently and it's weird. I think it's a bit like the "Uncanny Valley" thing with CGI: it looks _almost_ like you're in the same room, but it's different enough that it's slightly unsettling.

    That being said, it's a very cool thing, and seems to go down pretty well with the people who use it a lot more than I do.

  3. Tim
    Thumb Down

    In a hotel

    So you get all the misery of business travel, coupled with the disadvantages of video conferencing (as opposed to being there in person.) Worst of both worlds.

  4. Tony

    VC good - travel bad

    We implemented a video conferencing solution using a mixture of products at 5 sites across Europe (3 in the UK) and there will be another site added later this year. The cost is just over £17k with another £2k to come. The total savings in reduced travel costs have been around £75k in the last 12 months with about another £30k in saved time. We expect the savings to be at least 50% more in the next 12 months.

    I've seen the Cisco telepresence product - and it is ice cool (yes, I want one) but even at the lower price, it is still too expensive. The quality of the smaller units is still more than good enough for what we need.

    The only problem is that we don't get the frequent flyer miles anymore - but at least we don't have to spend hours waiting in line at Heathrow.

  5. Adam Foxton

    Has no-one thought...

    ... of buying a big monitor and high resolution webcam/microphone for these people?!

    $500,000?! That better include a full 20 years of support and free upgrades\repairs along with- at a minimum- native-HD 1080p cameras\screens. And a good number of wireless tie-clip microphones rather than a big omnidirectional one. And a bloody quick dedicated internet connection.

    If not, don't the people who buy this stuff realise that their kids are quite possibly doing it already to talk to their friends over MSN etc?! MS Office Communicator even supports it if they need a more "businessy" looking one- and the half-million dollars saved should go some way to updating their network infrastructure to handle the massive amount of video content for a good few VCs going on simultaneously too.

    I'm off to start a VC with a co-worker. From my desk. For free.

  6. Joe K

    Save yourself some money..

    ...and just use some PS3's and eye-toys. Job done, a solution even the most techno-gimped middle manager can use.

    You can also settle business disputes with inter-office games of COD4, everyones happy.

  7. Jess
    Paris Hilton

    iMacs or Macbooks?

    A couple of macs and AIM/ICQ or google accounts on iChat and you have a working simple to use solution.

  8. Mad Hacker


    Could you tell us what products/setups you chose? Sounds like you found something much better than a $300,000+ solution.

  9. Dennis


    I'm with Tony on this - it reeally is ace...

    the 300k$ cisco kit buys you

    3 big old plamas

    a bunch of hd video cameras.

    surround sound audio (both mics and speakers.

    a table that is exactly replicated at the other side.. and matching pain for the walls..

    it's beyond ice cool.

    sure we can have msn to chat to mum on our year out in oz - but this is for the big boys brokering mega deals.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Never mind the width, feel the quality

    Git yea gold plated taps 'ere. Only £20k the pair. Its a barhg'in.

    Sounds to me like there is a business model installing a video conferencing solution for free and installing yourself in the middle taking a rake off for each call. TV and camera, even at HD, should total £1k. The vendors should be ashamed of themselves.

  11. Morely Dotes

    Looks like a commerical for a credit card

    Big-ass Plasma TV: $1249.99

    Vidconf-ready PC: $362.99

    High-end USB Webcam: $100.95

    Hands-free VOIP phone: $107.95

    Selling this bundle (plus a table and paint job) for half a million: Priceless

    These prices are real, I just looked them up:

  12. Brett Brennan
    Dead Vulture

    @Joe K

    Ah, yes: settling intra-office dynamics in a "gentlemanly" fashion! What a trip! Back in my younger "cruiser-weight" days, we often settled software design disputes - literally - in the parking lot - with fisticuffs! There were days when the entire system software team looked like they were extras from "Fight Club"! (BTW, I lost ALL my matches, but got respect for being the only QA guy that was willing to "step out". And I'm still close friends with all the members of that bank's "Fight Club"...)

    More seriously, I've been testing video conferencing systems for the past 15 years, and still have yet to find one (including the Cisco and HP offerings) that truly add value to an organization. However, what I have discovered it that a decent voice conference call setup with the ability to quickly exchange documents and including a "virtual white board" works for nearly all situations that I need to discuss things with remote colleagues. It's the white board capability that is the biggest problem: I use an old NEC tablet PC to sketch things out in real-time, but folks trapped with a desktop or laptop and a mouse are at a significant disadvantage.

    Microsoft is probably furthest along the "right" road here with SharePoint services, but eventually the approach will end up with something like a custom MMRP game server that implements the white board or, even simpler, a WEB 2.0 application that allows direct interaction on a shared page. This is outside of my expertise, but should be straight-forward (if not especially easy) to do.

    (The dead vulture to commemorate what I looked like after a "design meeting"...)

  13. Anonymous Coward


    I've seen a Halo room in action and I can tell you that it is most certainly not like using a webcam. The image quality is phenomenal, the latency imperceptible, and the immersive nature of the tele-conference is way beyond any desktop solution. It's Alice through the looking glass - very spooky and incredibly cool.

    Chat to the girlfriend with iSight, discuss the billion dollar deal in a Halo room.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Management not keen...

    ...when anyone suggests that we could save a wad of cash by getting a bunch of VC kit so they no longer have to travel to exotic far-flung locations on expenses. They seem far more interested in ensuring they have the latest notebooks, phones, CrackBerrys, etc. so they can play "mine's newer than yours" in the conference/meeting/exhibition.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Did any body tell these customers

    ...About telephones?

  16. Tony

    @Mad Hacker

    3 of the units were Sony Ipela systems with data sharing boxes (approx £4500 each). They are used in the "regional centres". The 2 outlying sites have Polycom VT700s (approx £1700 each) and we are going to put another one of these in the new site in France.

    We tested them with a 4 way call about 2 months ago; UK HO, Germany, Scotland and Hungary. They also allow us to use the data sharing function for all participants to look at various things, organise training etc. Well worth the dosh.

    Hey Sony and Polycom; any chance of some freebies for promoting the products??

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