Avaya, Polycom team on desktop videophone

Avaya, Polycom team on desktop videophone

Avaya and Polycom have teamed to create a desktop videophone that lets users place a video call by dialing a standard telephone number.

The combination of Avaya's VoIP Softphone application and Polycom's Via Video personal conferencing unit, is being dubbed Avaya Video Telephony Solution: Desktop Edition. The package is powered by the new Integrator for Polycom Video, a piece of software that lets an Avaya IP Softphone 5.1 client control the Via Video unit. Via Video is a self-contained camera and microphone system with digital signal processing chips that offload the audio/video compression work from the attached PC's main processor.

Application users can place a normal telephone call and the Integrator will determine whether the recipient's system can accept video and either prompt the user to ask if they want to use video or launch it automatically, depending on the preference setting.

"The user gets to leverage the telephony infrastructure since they're placing a voice call first," says Greg Brophy, senior product manager at Avaya. "They can use forward and coverage (such as voice mail) and (send the call) to non-video endpoints."

One drawback to the system is that it can only be used for point-to-point calls between similarly equipped systems. One cannot participate in a multi-point video call or connect with a Polycom videoconferencing appliance. Multipoint and Webcam support are scheduled for the next release due out in the first half of 2005, Brophy says.

This is the first product announcement from the two companies since they signed a development agreement in December 2003. While both companies promise more products and tighter integration between Avaya telephony and Polycom video, they're not as far along as their chief competitors, Cisco Systems and Tandberg, says Brent Kelly, an analyst at Wainhouse Research.

"This is the first fruits of alliance as far as products go," Kelly says. "The real big step forward is when multipoint and (the ability to call) other video systems is rolled out."

Avaya and Polycom are selling the Softphone/ViaVideo package for US$429. Users that already have a Softphone 5.x client and a Via Video unit can download the Integrator application for free.

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