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VoiceCon: Is Desktop Video In Your Future? Vendors Say Yes

Tandberg rolled out a new desktop video system, the EX90, that might very well indicate the shape of your desktop monitor in the years to come—a streaming video system and desktop monitor rolled into one, saving space on your desk. Tandberg isn't the only game in town; desktop HD streaming video from Polycom and Cisco were also demonstrated at the show. The demos look good, but the price is far too high for general deployment. Expect to see these hardware systems only in conference rooms or executive suites until the price drops.

The EX90 by itself can run three streams of HD-quality 720P video at 30 frames per second from your desktop to other EX90 users. It can also double as a desktop monitor, supporting WUXGA resolution at 1920x1200. With options, the stream can reach 1080P at 30 frames per second or 720P at 60 frames per second. The EX90 comes with a separate station controller for making calls and can integrate with Microsoft's Exchange for address look-up.

Each EX90 can support up to three video streams--one transmit and two receive. The unit also features a built in 2.7 megapixel auto-focus camera that can be pointed downward into a document, reversing the document for display to viewers. Add an additional EX90 and integrate with Tandberg's Codian Multi-point Control Unit (MCU) to add more conferences. The list price is a bit under $10,000 per unit.

Polycom's HDX 4000 HD conferencing system, which has been on the market for a few years with a street price of around $7,000 offers 720P HD viewing, as well as a recently-announced HDX 6000 telepresence product for small rooms. The HDX 6000 is also 720P at 30 frames per second and can output 1920x1080 content (non-video) display. Like the EX90, it also integrates with Microsoft's Exchange and Office Communicator Server and others for integrated collaboration. But even at a more modest $4,999 for a HDX 6000, that's still a pretty steep price point.

For any HD system, you still have to factor in the network bandwidth per system, which can be between 1.5 Mbps to 4Mbps for 720P HD video, and more for 1080P. Video codecs attempt to intelligently send screen updates based on what has change per frame rather than sending an entire frame.  

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