VCON enhances products

FRAMINGHAM (09/15/2003) - VCON Inc., a small player in a videoconferencing equipment market dominated by Polycom Inc. and Tandberg, is looking to boost its stature with this week's release of a new conference scheduling and management module and a handful of product enhancements that boost the call handling capability of its network products.

The new products and enhancements, all shipping this month, include the VCON Conference Moderator (VCM) for scheduling; a new release of Media Xchange Manager for managing network devices such as multi-point control units and gateways; VCON Conference Bridge (VCB) 2000, a combination MCU, gateway and streaming server; and, vPoint, a stand-alone software-based video endpoint.

VCM adds Web-based call scheduling and management features such as adding and dropping participants on the fly to VCON's Media Xchange Manager (MXM). The scheduling module works with any MCU or network device supported by MXM, including those from competitors like Radvision and Polycom.

"The scheduler can be used for more than just scheduling multi-point conferences, it can schedule point-to-point calls or calls that require a gateway to connect with ISDN-based users," VCON President Gordon Daugherty says.

However, the VCM does not integrate with calendars in Outlook or Notes, like some competing products.

The new MXM 4.0 release now features a SIP-to-H.323 gateway that allows SIP and traditional IP videoconferencing endpoints to participate in the same conference. Version 4.0 also doubles the number of concurrent users and calls to 5,000 and 500, respectively. Daugherty says call handling transactions (forwarding, transfer and dialing) have been improved from 2 transactions per second to 100 transactions per second.

VCON is targeting the lower end of the market with its VCB 2000 MCU/gateway combination, which comes installed on a 1-rack unit high Windows 2000 server. The VCB includes an eight to 64 port MCU, the SIP to H.323 gateway, and the ability to multicast a stream of an on going conference to view-only participants on the local network.

Finally, the company released a stand-alone version of vPoint, the software used with its ViGo desktop video conferencing device. This version of vPoint can be used with a standard Webcam and microphone and is H.323 compliant. Previous versions of the software would only work with a VCON gateway. This version just requires a USB protection key, designed to prevent unauthorized copies from being circulated on file-sharing networks, Daugherty says.

"This is a company that quietly put together all the essential items for video and voice conferencing over IP," says Andrew Davis, an analyst at Wainhouse Research. "But they've been unable to break through the ceiling in sales."

Davis believes the company's IP-only product set has not yet caught the attention of the IP heavyweights. "Part of the problem is conferencing guys don't know IP and the IT guys don't know conferencing," Davis says. "I think this will change, but it's been slow in developing."

Pricing for the VCM add-on to MXM ranges from US$3,500 to $20,000. MXM 4.0 is priced on a per user basis and ranges from $200 to $400 per user. The VCB2000 MCU/gateway is priced at $1,200 to $1,800 per port. VCON is selling the software-only vPoint for $129 each in a 100 pack.

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