Logitech officials see an opportunity to fill a need in the video conferencing space between expensive, high-end systems and PCs equipped with a Webcam.
The company on Feb. 8 unveiled its new Logitech Group offering, which combines a high-definition video camera with a full duplex speakerphone and is aimed at groups of up to 14 people, or up to 20 with additional expansion microphones. As with other products in its video conferencing portfolio, Logitech with Group is providing the hardware and enabling it to run software from other vendors, such as Microsoft and Cisco Systems.
It's a way of making the system easy for people to use, a key consideration when talking about collaboration tools, according to Scott Wharton, general manager of the Logitech video collaboration group. The Group system, which is the follow-on to Logitech's ConferenceCam CC3000e, is designed to give people a better, easier way to use the conferencing tools they are using already.
"People don't want to learn a new system," Wharton told eWEEK. "They want to use what they already know."
Vendors in the video conferencing space are building out their product lineups to address the growing demand for solutions that can be used in meeting rooms that are smaller than the traditional conference rooms that are outfitted with expensive telepresence systems. Most options now involve software that enables PCs to be used in video collaboration sessions but that forces groups of people to crowd around the PC. Companies like Polycom and Cisco are adding systems that can address the demand for systems that offer video cameras and speaker systems that enable a more comfortable meeting experience.
Logitech also offers an array of such products, including the 2-year-old ConferenceCam CC3000e, an all-in-one system for meetings of up to 10 participants. The new Group offering, which is aimed at the enterprise, doubles the number of participants it can handle and has a goal of giving businesses an affordable option that can be easily set up and operated in any room and run whatever collaboration applications they already use.
The speakerphone includes a metal case that officials said improves the sound performance, omnidirectional microphones and technology that cancels out outside noise. Participants can be heard within 20 feet of the base, and that range can grow to 28 feet with expansion microphones. In addition, it can be used with Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices for audio calls.
The video is 1080p quality, and the camera offers a 90-degree field of view, pan and tilt controls, a 10X zoom and on-board H.264 capabilities.
The system is optimized for Microsoft's Lync 2013 and is certified for Microsoft's Skype for Business and Cisco's Jabber and WebEx applications. Through Logitech's Collaboration Program, it also offers support for most video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom and Blue Jeans Network. In addition, it works with any system or device with a USB connection, including PCs, Apple Macs and Chromebooks.
The Group offering, which will be on display at the Integrated Systems Europe 2016 show this week, will be available in March, starting at $999.
The new product comes as the video conferencing and unified communications (UC) markets continue to shift toward software- and cloud-based solutions that can address such trends as an increasingly mobile workforce, the growing numbers of mobile devices and the cloud.
"We continue to see the effect of lower-cost video systems and products, new software- and cloud-based video offerings, and Web browser usage for real-time video collaboration combining to fundamentally impact how videoconferencing solutions are bought and deployed by organizations today," Petr Jirovsky, research manager of IDC's Worldwide Networking Trackers unit, said in a statement in December 2015 when the analyst firm released its quarterly report on the video conferencing space.
It's also a time of change for Logitech, which Wharton said is the world's top provider of Webcams and the second-largest vendor of room-based video conferencing systems, having sold more than 100,000 in the past year. The company last month spun out Lifesize, its video conferencing unit that had transformed over the previous couple of years into a cloud-based solutions vendor.