LifeSize launches cheap videoconferencing kit

The company's new products offer high-definition videoconferencing at a significantly lower price than rival Cisco and HP offerings

Texas-based videoconferencing company LifeSize launched on Tuesday three high-definition products which are significantly cheaper than rival products, such as Cisco's TelePresence.

LifeSize offers high-definition (HD) videoconferencing from £3,500 per site, and so is significantly cheaper than Cisco TelePresence, which costs around £150,000 per site. Other videoconferencing products are available at a similar price to LifeSize Express, but they do not offer HD quality.

The three products are LifeSize Express (£3,500 per site), LifeSize Team MP (£5,300 per site) and the high-end LifeSize Conference (£23,000 per site). The company has also updated its existing LifeSize Room product (£7,500 per site).

The entry-level LifeSize Express includes a FireWire-connected HD camera, as well as a remote control, speakerphone and unit for connecting the system with an HD television and local area network. It can run with a wide area connection of just 1.5Mbps. The more expensive options can handle increasing numbers of simultaneous calls and support more cameras and screens, but they also require faster connections.

Although it produces its own cameras, LifeSize offers interoperability with those from other manufacturers.

Videoconferencing is being touted by a number of manufacturers and service providers as a way to cut down on travel expenditure. However, BT's general manager of broadband services, Chris Lindsay, claimed in September that small businesses were not embracing videoconferencing enthusiastically due to social and cultural issues. "When we talk to customers, if they've got an audio conference, whiteboards and shared applications, then the addition of video over and above that doesn't add tremendous amounts to their experience," Lindsay said at the time.

Andreas Wienold, LifeSize's EMEA sales manager, disagreed with Lindsay's comments. "You don't sell [HD videoconferencing] to companies on budgets — you sell it to people," he said. He also disagreed with Lindsay's claim that small businesses' main driver towards videoconferencing would come from the use of consumer products like Skype, suggesting instead that any current aversion to videoconferencing was due to poor experiences with the technology.

The real driver for adoption, Wienold claimed, would come from the HD products sold by Cisco and HP, whose high-end, high-profile videoconferencing products constitute "perfect marketing" for LifeSize's own portfolio.

"People go to [Cisco and HP] and say: 'We can't really afford it'," said Wienold. "The market conditions right now are perfect. SMEs have just started to smell that they are going to have to have a global business. There is no premium for HD anymore."