Low cost enterprise grade video conferencing

Up until recently, you needed an enterprise grade video conferencing hardware solution costing thousands of dollars to achieve near broadcast quality video conferencing.  Polycom has changed all that with their new PVX software (about $150) which brings the same type of video quality to personal computers (with CPUs above a Pentium 4 2.

Up until recently, you needed an enterprise grade video conferencing hardware solution costing thousands of dollars to achieve near broadcast quality video conferencing.  Polycom has changed all that with their new PVX software (about $150) which brings the same type of video quality to personal computers (with CPUs above a Pentium 4 2.2 or Pentium M 1.6) as the expensive hardware based solutions.  Perhaps if Sean Maloney of Intel had used PVX to demonstrate video conferencing over WiMAX using his own companies flagship CPUs, he wouldn't have had such a embarrassing display of poor picture quality and jerky video in front of a thousand Interop attendees.  I personally winced every time Maloney kept boasting that it was "8 mbps video" that we were being treated to when it looked more like broken-up 128 kbps video being projected on the wall.  It was ironic that Maloney pinned the blame on the CPU for the choppy video instead of the WiMAX network he was demonstrating because one has to wonder what message Maloney was giving about his own CPUs.

The PVX software runs on windows XP on any desktop or notebook equipped with a windows compatible video camera through a USB or Firewire interface.  The PVX coupled with a digital camcorder with quality lenses and CCD sensor hooked up via Firewire could produce nearly the same quality as a ten thousand dollar hardware based solution.  Because the PVX is based on Polycom's high-end hardware based video conferencing systems, it not only provides the same type of quality but is also compatible with the expensive hardware conferencing solutions.  You can make video calls with any H.264 standard based conferencing solution from vendors such as Polycom or Tandberg.  When Polycom demoed the PVX software connecting to one of their $12K hardware solution at Interop, I was stunned by the quality achieved at a bit rate of 1 mbps.  Even at 256 kbps, the video quality was surprisingly acceptable and I was very impressed.