Xten Video Softphone Gets IM, Presence

EyeBeam 1.1 adds buddy lists, chat, and recording features.

Xten Networks Inc. has announced a new version of its Xten eyeBeam video-enabled softphone. Due in early December, eyeBeam 1.1 will incorporate presence and instant messaging along with IP voice and video.

The presence and IM features of eyeBeam 1.1 were demonstrated at the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show in San Francisco last week, using Vonage Holding Corp.s voice-over-IP service, a PC, a headset and a 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service) high-speed wireless network. Vonage, along with EarthLink Inc. and other VOIP providers from the cable operator, telco, and ISP markets, resells the softphone under its own brand with its own service. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Xten designs a different device image for each and also sells its software development kit.

EyeBeam 1.1 will convert a users contact list into a buddy list and implement presence and IM using open-standard SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and SIMPLE (SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions). It will also use XCAP (XML Configuration Access Protocol), which is the standard for centralized buddy lists.

"Weve chosen to go with IM and presence because a lot of MSOs [multiservice operators] and service providers are asking for it," said Xten president Erik Lagerway. "The carriers are asking for this, because they know that these large IM/portal providers are moving to open standards." he said.

America Online Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.s MSN IM services all offer IP voice and video through presence-aware buddy lists. "They know they cant stay proprietary and expect to keep market share," Lagerway said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts integrated IM and telephony client.

Enterprise users typically acquire Xten softphones through hosted-IP-PBX or single-VOIP-line carriers, said Lagerway, although large companies can buy the endpoints directly and configure them for their own choice of VOIP service provider. Two eyeBeam phones connecting via Vonages or BroadVoice Inc.s services, for example, will have full use of presence, voice, chat, and (with Webcams) video, Lagerway said.

Xten, whose chief technology officer, Robert Sparks, was one of SIPs co-founders, is now elaborating on presence tools and GUIs to allow users to maintain multiple-location, multiple-identity presence, and to automatically dial when buddies become free for voice calls. They are also perfecting security mechanisms to authenticate reached parties and to prevent voice or video spam. Security features will adhere to the open-systems strategy, and employ TLS (Transport Layer Security) for messaging and SRTP (Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol) for media encryption.

Authenticated certificates will be passed through all sorts of media calls "without a great deal of headache," said Lagerway. The release will also support conferencing, and recording of all local video and all audio.

A free softphone called X-Lite, which can be downloaded from Xtens site, has also won many enterprise users, said Lagerway. Xtens strategy has been to try to move X-Lite customers to the paid client for video and instant messaging. Available for Mac OS X and Pocket PC as well as Windows, the clients sell for $10 apiece in volumes of a thousand, with higher volume discounts available.

Others get the client as part of a hosted PBX offering. "We can configure it so users only have to insert their phone number and password, and theyre up and running. They can pick up their laptop, and when they get to Germany, they have the same phone number that they did in Vancouver," said Lagerway.

And although it violates their open-systems mantra, Xten is also willing to integrate eyeBeam with Microsofts Live Communications Server—which, according to Lagerway, does not interoperate with SIMPLE and XCAP—for large-scale clients. "We will build an API to the LCS into our SDK and provide a client," he said. Xten will not maintain the client for a customer to keep it compatible with Microsofts IM and presence server going forward, however.

/zimages/4/28571.gif Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.