Videoconferencing Makes Web Moves

Several videoconferencing service providers add capabilities for browser support and streaming-media playback.

Videoconferencing is further expanding onto the Web as two service providers prep services to deliver video over the Internet—whether as a browser-based videoconference or as streaming media.

In separate announcements, SightSpeed Inc., Glowpoint Inc. and StarBak Communications Inc. each introduced new products and services that enable Web videoconferencing.

SightSpeed Inc., of Berkeley, Calif., on Monday launched a service that provides Web browser access to its desktop videoconferencing software. The service, SightSpeed Web, allows users of its Video Messenger client product to host a video conference by pointing participants to a customized URL.

The service, available now for Windows and Internet Explorer 5.0 and higher, supports the delivery of video at a rate of 30 frames per second. This better matches the speed of audio through telephone connections, a common practice in conferencing systems, said CEO Brad Treat. It also can auto detect a Web camera and PC-based audio.

According to Treat, SightSpeeds new service could help in sales, providing a way to quickly add in video to help build trust with customers or demonstrate a product. "The video component makes sense when the people in front of it are as important as what is being discussed," he said.

SightSpeed Web, for an unlimited number of minutes, costs $100 a month per user. The service also will be extended to support Apple Computer Inc.s Mac OS X and Linux. Those versions will come out with a new release of the client software in the first quarter of 2004, Treat said.

Separately, Glowpoint Inc., of Hillsdale, N.J., plans to launch by the end of the year a service for turning video conferences into streaming video, either as live events or for on-demand viewing. Called Glowpoint Webcasting, the service allows enterprises to use existing videoconferencing end points, whether based on ISDN or IP, to deliver streaming media across the Internet, said Dan McCrary, Glowpoints senior director of Web services. Viewers can watch the video with Microsoft Corps Windows Media player.

"If you have a videoconferencing system now, you can be web casting in minutes," McCrary said.

Scenarios where the integration of videoconferencing and streaming media would make sense include in marketing, where a company could deliver what once would have been a four-person video conference to a wider audience for training or sales, McCrary.

Once available, Glowpoint Webcasting will be offered for use during an individual event and as a monthly subscription. Pricing was not disclosed.

In other streaming video news, StarBak Communications Inc., of Waltham, Mass., said it plans to ship in November a new encoding appliance for converting video from multiple sources into Windows Media streams and files. The Create CEA system can capture analog video from VCRs and video cameras, the company said.