Citrix Online Takes On Cisco, Polycom with HDFaces Video Feature

Citrix Online jumped into the video-collaboration space with the introduction of the HDFaces technology for its GoToMeeting and GoToTraining offerings.

Citrix Online is bringing video capabilities to its online-collaboration offerings, a move that will bring it up to par with rivals such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Polycom.

At the Citrix Synergy show in Berlin Oct. 6, officials with Citrix Online-a six-year-old division of Citrix Systems-introduced HDFaces, a high-definition integrated video conferencing tool for its GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar and GoToTraining Web-conferencing offerings. HDFaces features Citrix's Multistream HD technology, which enables conference participants to view up to six high-resolution video streams-a total maximum resolution of 1920p x 960p-in an HD session, and to view video and the presenter's shared desktop on the same screen.

Citrix Online rolled out a beta version of HDFaces at the Berlin show, with general availability scheduled for the first quarter of 2011.

HDFaces gives users a better experience than do comparable products from competitors, according to Citrix Online CTO Bernd Christiansen.

"When customers say they want video capabilities combined with Web conferencing, they don't mean tiny, choppy images-but that's what they currently get with the products on the market today," Christiansen said in a statement. "What they actually want is to see the details in others' facial expressions just like in a face-to-face meeting or training session. That's why it was so important to us to incorporate high-resolution video into our collaboration products."

Video collaboration has become an important technology, as businesses look for ways to reduce expenses-such as travel costs-while increasing employee productivity. Vendors expect this demand will only grow-Cisco officials say they expect video to be a key part of a collaboration market that will reach $30 billion within the next few years.

The result has been a stream of acquisitions, partnerships and new products, as companies look to gain greater traction in the market. Cisco earlier this year bought video conferencing rival Tandberg for $3.4 billion to bolster its offerings, and on Oct. 6 is expected to expand its TelePresence technology into the consumer field.

Logitech jumped in a year ago with its purchase of LifeSize Communications, and Polycom continues to expand its offerings and partner with the likes of Avaya, HP and Microsoft. Avaya also is pushing into the video-collaboration space, both through in-house innovation with its Avaya Flare Experience and through alliances with Polycom and Skype.

Skype-which has a strong consumer business with a user base of about 400 million-is looking to move into the corporate world, and it sees its partnership with Avaya as another avenue into the business space. The company earlier this year began testing a technology that allows multiple parties onto the same video call.

Citrix Online officials began talking about offering a video collaboration technology earlier this year. In an interview with eWEEK in June, Bernardo de Albergaria, vice president and general manager of global marketing and e-commerce for Citrix Online, said the company was working on the technology, but wanted to ensure that what it came out with was something that businesses would want to use.

At the time, de Albergaria said Citrix Online would come out with something within three quarters, but that it would be patient to ensure the technology was ready.

"We're not just going to push it out there," he said.

Company officials are confident about HDFaces.

"We've made it so easy and natural to work on a shared document in a video conference that I can't imagine why any businessperson would ever want to use a standalone desktop video-conferencing solution again," Citrix Online's Christiansen said.

Key features include the Multistream HD technology-a video-conferencing viewer integrated into the content screen that enables attendees to collaborate on shared content and see each other at the same time-and video optimization that will automatically adjust to fit with the hardware and network of each attendee. In addition, because Citrix Online is using no proprietary technology, HDFaces can be supported by any HD-capable video-conferencing viewer.

The technology also will be standard in GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar and GoToTraining.