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Cisco Adds Video Conferencing To IP Phones

Cisco on Wednesday unveiled software for its mid- and upper-range Internet-based telephones that will add real-time video conferencing and collaboration for less than $200 per user.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company -- best known for its switches and routers -- launched server-based software, Cisco CallManager 4.0, on Wednesday, and in April will follow up with client-based drivers to patch Windows desktops and laptops into its IP-based private branch exchange (PBX) systems for delivering the video end of the conversation.

In combination with its mid-range and high-end IP phones -- including the 7940, 7960, 7970, and 7936 -- the new software integrates audio done over the phone with PC-based video conferencing, all of it managed by the company's PBX system and carried over the organization's network or via the Internet.

The client side of the new offering -- dubbed Cisco Video Telephony (VT) Advantage 1.0, transparently adds real-time, person-to-person video to telephone calls, said Cisco's Marthin De Beer, a vice president in the company's IP communications group.

"We're making video conferencing as simple as a phone call," said De Beer. "Once you're in the call, you have all the functionality of the PBX system. You can put the call on hold, for instance, transfer the call, even hit a conference button for an ad hoc meeting."

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