One day after Cisco announced its HD video conferencing juggernaut through its acquisition of vendor Tandberg, upstart rival LifeSize punched back, announcing its LifeSize Passport HD video communications solution at a sub-$2,500 price.

The system, which consists of an HD video camera, a remote controller and a codec small enough to fit in the palm of a user’s hand, plugs into any existing HD display, whether on the user’s desktop or in a conference room.

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LifeSize Passport is also the first HD video communications system to enable Skype HD audio calls to the more than 480 million registered Skype users. And while HD video is not yet enabled and LifeSize says it cannot comment on future directions in its relationship with Skype, it’s a pretty good guess that’s what the two companies are working on in their development relationship. LifeSize says future functionality will be released in its software updates.

“This is significantly less expensive than Cisco or Tandberg technology without compromising quality,” Michael Helmbrecht, director of product management at LifeSize, tells Channel Insider. The LifeSize Passport enables 720p at 30 frames per second over public IP network. Helmbrecht says that LifeSize’s internally developed codec uses half the bandwidth of technology available from competitors because it was developed as an HD system and not as standard video.

Helmbrecht says the comparable Cisco product would be the Cisco TelePresence 500 at about $35,000, and he says a comparable Tandberg product would run about five times the cost of LifeSize Passport.

“It brings the full telepresence experience further down market,” Helmbrecht says. “It expands it to new groups of users in companies that already have video conferencing.”

LifeSize says the new product, which fits in a bag designed for a netbook, is ideal for telecommuters and workers who travel frequently. Helmbrecht says the system is up and running in 5 minutes.

LifeSize Passport ships at the beginning of November through the company’s AV VARs and data and IP telephony VARs and through distributor Tech Data.

The product comes in two configurations. The first includes a basic HD camera and starts at just under $2,500. Another system includes the PTZ camera, which zooms and pans, in a package available for just under $3,500.