Wednesday, 29 February 2012 09:01

LifeSize reveals touchscreen conference phone


LifeSize has unveiled a new videoconferencing phone featuring touchscreen operation for greater usability. The company also took the opportunity to explain its overall strategy.

LifeSize, a division of Logitech, has introduced its second-generation LifeSize Phone. Rafi Anuar, director of global product management, told iTWire the replacement of all physical buttons with a touchscreen is an industry first.

LifeSize Phone

The objective was to remove complexity for users so that anyone can use it without training. For example, press the 'call' button and then pick from the directory to make a call; and to record the session (see below), press 'record'.

"That's going to drive adoption," said Mr Anuar, suggesting that it puts the smartphone experience onto a conference phone.

The touchscreen helps the devices acoustics as well as improving the user experience, he said. By eliminating common causes of rattling, the audio quality is improved.

The new LifeSize Phone will be delivered first as part of the LifeSize Room 220 HD videoconferencing system, then added to the rest of the company's range.

Page 2: Corporate strategy


Mr Anuar said five factors were driving the company's strategy: interoperability between unified communications products from larger and smaller vendors; mobility; streaming (the ability to replay videoconferences or to use videoconferencing equipment to produce streaming videos); virtualisation; and cloud.

He said the 2011 acquisition of Mirial by Logitech gave LifeSize a good mobility story by adding desktop/notebook and mobile (iOS and Android)applications to the portfolio, along with an "enterprise grade" videoconferencing server. Mirial's technology is 18 months ahead of the competition, and its code is highly portable, making it easy to move to new devices.

Mirial supports over 40 different devices, compared with the closest competitor's four. Growing expectations that organisations will have BYOD (bring your own device) policies makes this increasingly important.

Introduced around 18 months ago, the LifeSize UVC Video Center has proven very successful, Mr Anuar told iTWire. The ability to start recording a session with a single button click expands the use cases beyond videoconferencing. It can be used to record 'all hands' company meetings, training sessions and product demonstrations so they are accessible at other times. In addition, it is being used by universities to record lectures and guest presentations.

Virtualisation is important as it provides a break with the traditional approach of fixed configurations and separate boxes for every function, increasing the requirements for rack space, power, and administrative effort. "That isn't the best way of doing things," said Mr Anuar.

So LifeSize's recently announced UVC (universal video collaboration) platform uses virtualisation to move all the functions onto a single server. In addition, it allows all user management to be performed in one place.

Combined with flexible licensing (choose the features you need, and buy the number of seats required), this approach has reduced the entry-level cost of videoconferencing systems, bringing them within SME budgets, he claimed. Furthermore, LifeSize's 30-day trial licences allow potential customers to satisfy themselves that the product does what they need and can be set up in less than a day.

Page 3: Cloud option


But not everyone wants or needs an on-premises system. So the company also offers LifeSize Connections, a turnkey, cloud-based videoconferencing service with no upfront costs and the ability to add or remove seats as required. According to Mr Anuar, it appeals to customers with capital and IT expertise constraints.

Priced from $30 per device per month, features include nine-way HD bridging, a web-based administration console, and access to a business-class worldwide network. "The whole service is unique," he said.

Auto-provisioning means that administrators can enter the serial number of an endpoint into the management console, and then ship the device anywhere in the world. Once it is plugged in and connected to the Internet, the cloud service does the rest. "You don't have to put bodies on aircraft to provision videoconferencing in remote locations," Mr Anuar observed.

There is no requirement for outside participants in videoconferences to by subscribers to LifeSize's service: each licensed user can connect to one or two guests at a time. All the user needs to do is enter a guest's email address, and the service sends a link while installs and runs the client software.

ANZ country manager Tim Fulton said LifeSize's on-premises and fully hosted offerings provided flexibility for channel partners and customers. All sales are via the channel, he emphasised.

The company's competitors tend to provide products to telcos who build their own videoconferencing services, but second-tier telcos don't want to invest in their own videoconferencing infrastructure - they would rather leave that - and the management of the system - to LifeSize, and take a margin on the sales they make.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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