To 30, St Mary Axe, a.k.a The Gherkin, to meet Craig Malloy, CEO of High-Definition (HD) videoconferencing specialists LifeSize in their swanky new UK office. Before getting down to the journalistic business, I (like most visitors) just had to go up to the 40th floor and gawp at the view — which was splendid in today's perfect weather:
LifeSize, which was co-founded by Malloy back in 2003, is currently talking up its new Passport product, which aims to put 'telepresence in the palm of your hand' and will ship in November. Aimed at primarily at small businesses, remote offices and teleworkers, the 450g Passport codec is certainly smaller and lighter than the last bit of LifeSize kit we looked at, the 1.29kg Express. You could certainly envisage packing the £1,829 Passport model with the Focus camera/microphone combo in a travel bag if necessary.
LifeSize Passport with the Focus camera/microphone costs £1,829
If you need more functionality from the camera — perhaps for surveillance purposes — there's a more upmarket £2,559 model with a Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera and separate MicPod microphone.
LifeSize Passport with the Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) camera and MicPod microphone costs £2,559 (monitor not included)
The demo in LifeSize's office showed off a new feature introduced in Passport — Skype integration. All of the usual video and audio standards are supported, but Skype support (currently audio only, with HD video due 'fairly soon' according to Malloy) will make it easier for users to deal with firewall issues when setting up their communications links.
The telepresence (HD videoconferencing) market is in a state of flux right now, following Cisco's $3 billion purchase of Tandberg. The SME market looks to be a key battleground for the new Cisco/Tandberg group, LifeSize and the other key player in this market, PolyCom.
Although the price of LifeSize Passport hardly makes it an impulse buy, it looks competitive compared to rival offerings. We're hoping to get hold of a review unit soon, so look out for a full evaluation in due course.