Channel Gets Affordable HD Videoconferencing

LifeSize is launching a high-definition videoconferencing system that lists for $4,999, a price the company says will spur widespread adoption of HD teleconferencing systems and make selling them easier for channel partners.

Called LifeSize Focus, the system includes a camera with an integrated microphone along with a codec to deliver immersive HD teleconferencing to compete with some of the more high-end systems on the market. The high-definition video camera delivers full HD 1280-by-720 video at 30 frames per second. It does not include a display. However, the sub-$5,000 system is designed with the channel in mind.

"As it relates to distribution, there is that magic $5,000 threshold for products, so we’ve made that," said Adam Taylor, senior vice president of sales and service at LifeSize. "And we’ve done an incredible amount of partner recruiting through Tech Data."

The company has increased its partner numbers by about 30 percent since October, when it launched its $5,999 system, Taylor said. LifeSize wanted to attract "IP-centric resellers" such as those who work with Juniper Networks and Nortel Networks. In November, the company announced a distribution agreement with Tech Data.

That October launch made immersive telepresence-style teleconferencing a more affordable option for SMBs (small and midsize businesses). Previously such systems sold for close to $100,000, but LifeSize is not just pitching the value-priced HD video conferencing systems to small companies. It is also pitching them as an option for telecommuters at large companies, in addition to an option for equipping multiple conference rooms and even offices at large companies with HD teleconferencing.

Executives at the company pointed to high oil prices and the cost of transportation as drivers for businesses looking for alternatives to in-person meetings without losing the contact that those types of meetings offer.

"If you look at the way monitors are evolving, they are offered with multiple inputs," said Chief Technology Officer Casey King. "They have an HDMI output, but you can also have your PC plugged into the system, letting you use it with your office monitor."

"Partners say that this really opens up a new conversation with customers around telepresence," said Taylor. "The challenge for a lot of these companies is that it takes them a lot of time to swallow an investment like telepresence and see ROI from it. But when we talk about a sub-$5,000 system, partners are finding all of the sudden the conversation expands. Companies start talking about multiple installations on a single site."

The product started shipping April 14.

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