Vidyo Ups Its Ante With Lower-Cost Multiscreen Telepresence

Fast rising videoconferencing upstart Vidyo on Wednesday took the wraps off a multi-screen telepresence system, adding a higher-end telepresence competitor to Vidyo's portfolio of software-centric videoconferencing offerings.

Dubbed VidyoPanorama, the system can enable up to nine screens delivering 1080p at 60 fps video, and in the future, Vidyo says it will be able to provide that for up to 20 screens. VidyoPanorama itself is an application that can manage how video is decoded across the multiple screens, and the system comprises that application in concert with an executive tablet, an off-the-shelf high definition camera and an audio system.

Vidyo's contention is that many existing telepresence systems are both costly to deploy and manage, and also limited in the number of participants who can appear on screen during a given conference and inflexible in terms of the types of screens they can support. In many systems, for example, people "disappear" from the conference every time the number of remote cameras in a telepresence system exceeds the number of available screens, Vidyo says.

"The experience in immersive telepresence rooms is still pretty broken," said Ashish Gupta, Vidyo's chief marketing officer and senior vice president, corporate development. "So not only are you paying for a first class seat, but the more people you have participating, you only have a small number of screens available, so typically you'll get into a situation where you don't see certain people."

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But by using VidyoPanorama, customers can in effect create telepresence rooms using variable screen configurations and not be fixed to one architecture in particular, Gupta explained.

Vidyo's products use its Adaptive Video Layering (AVL) technology to optimize video quality for each participant's environment, and they use general data networks and the Internet rather than a dedicated QoS network. Vidyo has been steadily expanding its portfolio, and earlier this year introduced VidyoMobile, which enables the Vidyo technology for use with mobile devices.

U.S. list pricing for VidyoPanorama is about $40,000 for a four-screen 720p60 configuration, and the deployments run up to about $60,000 for a nine-screen 1080p60 configuration. It will be in field trials with customers and partners starting in August, and according to Vidyo, be available in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The pricing puts VidyoPanorama at a fraction of the $300,000 to $500,000 tag some high-end Polycom OTX and RPX deployments and Cisco Telepresence 3010 and 3020 deployments would cost. It's also a more flexible platform, Gupta argued.

"They're using proprietary hardware," Gupta said. "Every time they do something, a lot of little parameters need to change. This works with desktops and mobile devices natively so you don't need any special shenanigans. That's the big difference in the platform."

Next: Vidyo's Growing Channel Presence

According to Rob Hughes, senior vice president of worldwide sales and support, another benefit of the way Vidyo's technology is deployed is that solution providers can often demonstrate the technology remotely using customers' desktops or existing systems.

"It's a visual communication sale they can demonstrate and make without even having to go into the market," Hughes said.

Vidyo now has about 200 channel partners, and according to Hughes, will continue to grow its partner base gradually.

"It's not a good phase to be overdistributed," Hughes said. "We're at a stage of our development where a tightly controlled channel program is really important."

For some partners, the APIs and software development kit (SDK) Vidyo offers is the heart of Vidyo's appeal -- the app development aspect, in other words, is a big part of the value-add for customers.

"They're not overdistributed and they have a unique technology," said Tracy Mills, president of IDSolutions, a Noblesville, Ind.-based solution provider. "They've done a real nice job creating the ability to do integration around their stuff."

IDSolutions is a reseller of Vidyo's products, but also a service provider that uses Vidyo as the backbone for its branded video phone service. That solution, according to Mills, was built using Vidyo APIs.

Mills said he came into contact with Vidyo having known a lot of its executive team from prior assignments. IDSolutions' video sales have grown significantly in the first half of 2011, Mills said, and Vidyo is the line growing fastest. IDSolutions carries videoconferencing technologies from the space's major incumbent players, but Mills said he sees Vidyo's appeal in its flexibility.

"The ability to go anywhere with Vidyo, from mobile to PC -- that's what the game-changer is," said Mills, a 15-year veteran of the video space. "I see it as additive, because they're doing things that are different."

Vidyo, which has raised about $74 million from venture capital and emerged from stealth mode in 2007, has made steady inroads into a market dominated by Cisco and Polycom, but where competition from alternatives like LifeSize Communications is also fierce.

It hasn't gone unaffected by the wave of recent M&A moves sweeping the video space. Last week, Polycom confirmed it would acquire HP's Visual Collaboration portfolio likely spelling the end of Vidyo's OEM agreement with HP.