It's little exaggeration to say that Vidyo was meant for the cloud. The high-profile startup provides video conferencing technology that does away with MCUs, the multipoint control units that combine individual video streams to create multiparty conferences. Instead, Vidyo employs video routing software that runs on standard servers. It's useful for companies that want to video conference but can't afford expensive MCUs. And a recent announcement makes another advantage clear: Vidyo's approach makes it easy to move video conferencing to the cloud.
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Promoters of emerging communication technologies have a major message challenge: They need a shorthand way to explain what their new form of communication does for people. It's best if they can say it's like existing technologies, only better. With business video communication, the most obvious angle is to liken the experience to voice telephony. New technical models, though, always differ from existing ones. Thus comparing video to voice communication glosses over technical and other issues that may prove problematic in practice. Avistar Communications Corp., for one, is pushing a software-only approach to video communication, with a message that contrasts with those of most other players.
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Being able to make high-quality video conference calls as easily as regular phone calls represents a big improvement over the status quo. On one hand, it eliminates the aggravation of having to reserve a special video conference room and/or bridge, as with traditional video conferencing systems. On the other, it helps companies avoid the disappointing quality that often accompanies more-flexible services based on Web cams and PCs.
Vidtel's hosted video conferencing service provides such convenient, high-quality video conferencing on its own. But being able to make such video calls as an integrated part of a rich-featured phone service is even better, bringing the promise of unified communications closer to reality. A new tie-up between Vidtel and hosted VoIP provider SimpleSignal provides just such integrated capability.
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There were more advances than true innovations in the VoIP world in 2009. That's because some of the most important developments had more to do with commercial and political maneuvers than with technical creativity. Still, such maneuvers often helped spread the benefits of VoIP as much as did technical innovation. And collectively, the advances brought some already-evident trends into clearer focus. A key such trend is the increasing integration of voice with other applications and services. Another is the intensifying interest in HD voice. A third is the growing interconnection of VoIP services, in part in response to the possibilities that end-to-end HD voice offers. With such trends as background, here, in no particular order, are our top 25 VoIP advances of 2009.
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The most common reaction to the newly introduced Ribbit Mobile service is that it's a Google Voice competitor. In some ways that's true, but there are significant differences between the two. The main one is that Ribbit Mobile makes one's existing mobile number the main number, while Google Voice hangs all its services on a new number it provides. For most users, one approach will be clearly better than the other.
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Polycom has added several new desk phones to its product portfolio. One brings SIP-based HD voice capability for under $200. A second works specifically with Microsoft OCS 2007. And a third provides compatibility with both video conferencing and unified communications platforms.
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The push to integrate Skype with SMB IP PBXes is speeding up. On the heels of the commercial availability of Skype for Asterisk comes Skype for SIP for ShoreTel. The new capability allows ShoreTel users to make and receive calls via the Skype for SIP service. Skype announced that service in March, and ShoreTel is the first SIP-capable IP PBX vendor to achieve certification with it.
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