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Cisco Systems Inc. yesterday added video to the “V” in VOIP when it launched Call Manager 4.0 along with a new desktop video conferencing application integrated with Cisco IP phones.

The next major release of Cisco’s mainstay voice-over-IP communications software includes an optional new application and USB (universal serial bus) video camera, together dubbed the Cisco Video Telephony Advantage, that can create person-to-person video phone calls.

Cisco VT Advantage works with Cisco IP phones to easily create such calls, and those video calls can be transferred, muted, forwarded, put into a conference or put on hold.

The camera works with Windows 2000 or Windows XP and is plugged into the PC’s USB port. “The computer is plugged into the back of one of our phones. You get an icon on your screen that shows the camera. From then on, if you contact someone with video, it appears,” described Rick Moran, vice president and general manager for IP Communications at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif. Users have the option of turning off the video, and for calls transferred to non-video users, the video is automatically suppressed.

Cisco officials believe the new offering eliminates some of the last barriers to more widespread adoption of desktop video conferencing. “Desktop video has had a spotty history because of usability issues and because of the network required behind it—ISDN. This integrates seamlessly on a (Quality of Service) managed IP network. Also the price points for bandwidth continue to fall and that makes it more cost effective to deliver it to remote sites. The ease of deployment and the cost for this will help drive acceptance,” said Moran.

Beyond the video capabilities, Cisco also added new security functions to Call Manager 4.0 along with new end points for Call Manager and enhancements to Cisco Meeting Place Web conferencing, which it acquired with Lattitude Communications.

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