Mitel Rolls Out Low-Cost Collaboration Appliance

The company's UC360 Collaboration Point is designed to fill the space between large, expensive telepresence systems and individual offerings on PCs and mobile devices.

Mitel is looking to make collaboration easier and more spontaneous with a high-definition audio and video appliance that company officials said can be set up quickly and is easy to use.

Mitel€™s new UC360 Collaboration Point helps fill the gap between the large and expensive room-based immersive video collaboration systems aimed at large groups of people from the likes of Cisco Systems and Polycom and those unified communication (UC) products for individuals to use on their PCs, smartphones and tablets, said Wendy Moore-Bailey, director of solutions marketing at Mitel.

The device, announced June 20, enables up to four people to easily collaborate, Moore-Bayley told eWEEK.

€œThis is bringing video collaboration to a size in the market that just hasn€™t had access to it,€ she said.

Mitel caters to small and midsize businesses with 100 to 2,500 employees.

Video collaboration is quickly gaining momentum as businesses look for ways to increase employee productivity and enable them to use the growing array of mobile devices on the market, while also driving such costs as travel expenses. Businesses are using the technology not only to enable employees to collaborate among themselves, but also with partners and customers. IDC analysts said that revenue in the video conferencing and telepresence space grew 20.5 percent in 2011 to $2.7 billion, and that the growth is accelerating. Between 2009 and 2010, revenue in the market grew 16.6 percent, they said.

Vendors are quickly looking to bring greater video collaboration capabilities into their UC portfolios, with Avaya€™s recent acquisition of Radvision being the most recent example. Mitel€™s Moore-Bayley said that for large groups and individuals, the options are expanding rapidly. However, for smaller businesses and for smaller groups of people, there are fewer alternatives that offer the needed capabilities at the right price.

The UC360 Collaboration Point is designed to solve that problem, she said. The product is an all-in-one multimedia collaboration appliance that offers HD audio and visual capabilities along with in-room presentation displays and document sharing.

The appliance can sit on a desktop or table, and users can easily navigate the device€™s touch-screen to add people to a meeting, show presentations and share documents, according to Mitel officials. €œIt€™s as simple as making a phone call,€ Moore-Bayley said.

The device is based on Mitel€™s Freedom communications architecture and can work with various video collaboration, immersive telepresence, audio conferencing and IP-PBX offerings. Mitel already has begun interoperability testing with Polycom and Vidyo, a small vendor that offers software-based video conferencing solutions. It also is based on the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and supports the H.264 standard, so it can interoperate with any other endpoints that also support those standards.

The appliance, with a High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) video interface, can be used with an HD monitor, a flat-screen panel or projectors with HDMI cables. Pricing starts at $2,000, according to Mitel officials.

Moore-Bayley said the Mitel offering makes video collaboration more spontaneous, moving it away from large conference rooms where expensive systems have to be scheduled ahead of time. At the same time, it makes it easier for small groups of people to collaborate, rather than having to huddle around a single PC or mobile device screen.

Logitech, which owns video conferencing vendor LifeSize Communications, in March unveiled an appliance also aimed at filling that gap. The BCC950 ConferenceCam, a combination HD video and audio device, also is designed to enable small groups to collaborate.