I'm planning a report on enterprise conferencing with particular focus on audio and video conferencing. This is the first in a series of briefing reports on the topic. [Watch for survey soon.]

I had an audio briefing a week ago with Karoline McLaughlin of LifeSize, the Austin TX company that is focused on high definition video conferencing for enterprise. Karoline gave me a low-down on the history of the company and the goals of the business and its unique positioning.

Market Dynamics.

Video conferencing for enterprise has been a big beneficiary of enterprise investments in higher speed communications services, and the growing acceptance of geographically diverse organizations. All this has led to a rapid reduction in equipment cost over many years as the volume of shipments have increased. As an application, video conferencing was a big consumer of ISDN circuits (remember 2B+D?) and then leveraged H323 signaling to initiate and control sessions over IP networks. In the mid 1990s, an innovator in ISDN-channel bonding and integration with IP took the leadership of the remote access server market. Internet Service Providers bought the Ascend Max, a DSP-based RAS by the pallet load. That company, Ascend Communications, eventually acquired Cascade the frame relay equipment company and then was acquired to become the data division of Lucent. [This brings back memories, doesn't it?]

Now, with the migration to SIP-based signaling, there is another discontinuity to contend with. That is the transition to High Definition TV. Away with the low resolution analog TV monitors. Away with the cathode ray tubes. Bring on the flat screens. Digital cameras. Wideband audio. Finally, the economical delivery of TV-News (a la broadcast) quality solutions for enterprise at a price point not much more than what a high end workgroup computer might have cost five years ago.

LifeSize Founders and Funding.

With experience from V-Tel, ViaVideo and Polycom, the founders of LifeSize formed the HD-focused company in 2003, launching their product line in 2005. Venture-backed, with over $81 million in four rounds of funding from Austin Ventures, RedPoint Ventures, Pinacle Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures and Lehman Brothers, the company has focused on execution in the emerging high definition video conferencing discontinuity. International offices and an impressive global network of video reseller partners all point to the commitment of the company and its investors to the opportunity.

The Product.

brockmann-lifesizeproductsThis is the home page of the company with a  filter highlighting the four components within the solution set. The camera is a high quality digital and optical device capable of 30 frames per second at 1280 x 720 pixels. The 70 degree field of view enables the more impressive 2.40:1 widescreen view. The camera connects to the processor and the monitor (provided by others). The processor compresses the camera signal for transport, handles the IP network interface (it has Ethernet) and for the Team product performs rudimentary session binding. The Room product mixes more sessions.

The LifeSize phone is worthy of the high quality video image produced by the product line. With sixteen microphones and filtering against cellphone radio interference this single device doesn't need separate mics to reach meeting participants in the far corners of the room. 

The processor is controlled with the simple and elegant remote.

There are a few other components to the solution set for SIP-H323 networking and Session Border Control. I'll be meeting executives at InterOp in a few weeks and will have the opportunity to refine my thoughts (and questions) in my show report.