Tandberg, Polycom pitch security, update wares

FRAMINGHAM (01/27/2004) - The war between videoconferencing equipment providers Tandberg ASA and Polycom Inc. heated up on Monday with the two competitors issuing dueling announcements regarding support for the Advanced Encryption Standard and H.264 video compression algorithm as well as a number of other product enhancements and additions.

Polycom announced that AES encryption as well as support for H.264 video compression should be available for its existing line of iPower and ViewStation FX, EX and VS4000 systems via software upgrade (Version 6.0) sometime in March. Tandberg says it will now offer AES standard on all of its systems; previously the encryption technology was only available as an add-on. Tandberg already supported H.264, which offers double the video quality over the same bandwidth as its predecessor, is its entire product line.

Also Tuesday, Tandberg released Version 8.0 of its Tandberg Management Suite (TMS), added a new IM product, and released two new set-top endpoints, the Tandberg 770 and 990.

TMS 8.0 is used to centrally manage a videoconferencing infrastructure, from video endpoints to gateways to multi-point control units (MCU). New in Version 8.0 is the ability to manage Polycom MCU equipment from the Tandberg interface and integration with Microsoft Corp. Exchange, allowing users to schedule conferences via Outlook.

"(We) now support Polycom MGC units," Tandberg Chief Marketing Officer Toni Lee Rudnicki says. "We ask ourselves how can we help bring best-of-breed environment together and help with the visual communication process."

Tandberg's IM applications work alongside Windows Messenger, allowing users to invite "buddies" to a video or audio conference. The IM application requires that TMS 8.0 also be installed in the corporate network. Currently, the IM product only works with Windows. On the endpoint side, the 770 and 990 set-top models were added to give Tandberg customers a wide selection of endpoints depending on their need, Rudnicki says. They enhance the current line of 550 and 880 endpoints.

Not to be outdone, Polycom also announced a new Interactive Voice and Touch Control system for its iPower line of PC-based videoconferencing endpoints as well as new Media Center lines that offer a complete videoconferencing system for the corporate boardroom.

New voice recognition technology allows a presenter to control such iPower functions as placing or receiving a call and navigating through applications by just talking rather than having to use a keyboard. Cameras can be controlled by a touch-screen, mouse or interactive whiteboard. The new Interactive Voice and Touch Control system is now included with the iPower ClassStation 2.0 and MediaLink systems. For those wishing to upgrade, the system is available via software for US$1,999.

The new Media Center line is a systems that include a VSX4000 endpoint packaged with XGA screens and 270-watt sound system, all build into a customized cabinet. The Media Center systems start at $10,999.

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