VCON unveils ‘simpler’ IP videoconferencing

VCON Inc. this week released an entry-level multipoint control unit (MCU) designed for no-frills IP videoconference calls, as well as enhancements to its product line.

The VCB 1000 rack-mounted IP-based MCU comes in 8-, 16-, 32- and 64-port models and contains a built-in gatekeeper for managing traffic and a streaming server for delivering conferences to non-participants using IP Multicast technology. Those viewing the streamed version of the conference need VCON’s free Broadcast Viewer or Cisco’s IP TV client.

“With Radvision and Accord (now Polycom), you get all kinds of other features with (their MCUs) like speed matching, audio transcoding, etc., and some customers need that, but not everyone,” says Gordon Daugherty, president of VCON. “(Some) want a simpler, more cost effective system, so we’re filling a gap in price-performance and still providing a good feature set.”

VCB 1000 starts at US$12,000 for the 8-port model and ranges up to $60,000 for a 64-port model capable of eight eight-person simultaneous conferences. A future software release will allow more flexibility in the number of users in a given conference, Daugherty says.

On the video endpoint side, VCON is releasing software upgrades for its MediaConnect 9000 PC-based unit and the Falcon set-top appliance, both used in a group videoconference setting. The key enhancement for both products is support for the AnnexQ standard that allows conference participants to control a remote camera view.

Other enhancements on the MediaConnect 9000 include better video frame rates, improved support for firewalls and addition directory integration. The upgrade is free of charge for customers that have the existing MC9000 version 2.0.

The Falcon software version 3.01 includes better firewall integration, enhanced audio and Russian language support. Version 3.01 is also a free upgrade.

VCON is currently battling with Radvision on the MCU side and Polycom on all fronts – network and endpoint hardware. Polycom is currently the market leader in group-videoconferencing, followed by Tandberg, Sony then VCON, according to fourth quarter 2002 numbers from Wainhouse Research.

The third announcement this week is the addition of an application-sharing feature to the IPNexus enterprise instant messaging and collaboration server. Previously, applications such as PowerPoint could only be shared with other IPNexus users. A new WebShare feature allows desktop applications to be shared to anyone with a Java-enabled browser. This upgrade is available as a service pack to IPNexus 1.5.