PictureTel slims down videoconferencing unit

IT executives searching for videoconferencing systems for the boardroom to the desktop received a few more room-based options last month from PictureTel Corp.

The company is adding the PictureTel 600 Series to its line of iPower videoconferencing units and introducing the second version of the PictureTel 900.

The iPower line is designed to give IT executives enhanced video, audio and data sharing, a built-in PC and varying price options for room-based videoconferencing. The 600 Series is a small appliance-like device with some of the features of the more sophisticated 900 series.

“We call it the 900 light,” said Chris DiFiglia, vice-president of IT for Bear Stearns Companies. “We’re looking at it to bring videoconferencing and data collaboration to our power users, our executives and managers.”

DiFiglia said he can easily set up the 600 Series units as a cost-effective option for individual offices. Bear Stearns, which provides financial services for governments, corporations, institutions and individuals worldwide, is building a 46-story headquarters in New York with 15 rooms dedicated to videoconferencing.

“The 600 gives us a couple of different flavours, and that’s what we need,” DiFiglia said.

He added that the most important feature of the iPower line is the image-sharing capabilities, which let users inject images from remote computers into the conference.

“In the past, if you used a PowerPoint presentation, you needed to use a 20-point font on a clear white background just to see anything. Now you can project an Excel spreadsheet and still see it clearly,” DiFiglia said.

But the highlight of the 600 is the ability to separate the camera and the microphone from the central iPower unit, which provides deployment and upgrade options.

The 600 is slimmed down in other ways, including fewer I/O jacks for connecting peripherals, lower data rate transfers and fewer ports for IP and ISDN connections. The 900 has a Pentium processor, while the 600 features a Celeron processor.

The PictureTel 600 costs US$6,995 and is available now.