Mitel Debuts All-In-One A/V Collaboration Device

Mitel Wednesday debuted an all-in-one collaboration and conferencing device intended for personal office use, hoping to bridge the divide between individual collaboration tools and more expensive, cumbersome conferencing systems with big TCO.

Dubbed the Mitel U360, it's the centerpiece announcement at Mitel's Business Partner Conference, taking place this week in San Diego. The unit offers multiparty HD video (up to four parties) and audio combined with in-room presentation display and document sharing capabilities for remote participants, all managed via touch-screen display.

According to researcher Frost & Sullivan, 80 percent of typical office collaboration happens in groups of four people or fewer. Mitel said it designed the U360 with close input from its communications customers, and the intent is a device that's ideally suited for small groups of people and can be turned on quickly, without the hassle of scheduling video rooms.

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"This is a brand-new category," said Wendy Moore-Bayley, director of solutions marketing at the Ottawa-based company. "A lot of video systems, you're looking at $10,000 and higher and they're only deployed in a couple of shared meeting rooms within an organization."

It's priced at less than $2,000, and Mitel said the U360 can do everything from video connections to project slides or enable document sharing via the cloud. It's based on Freedom -- the Mitel UC architecture that delivers applications via a cloud-based stream of software -- and works with a range of video, telepresence, audioconferencing and PBX platforms.

Mitel has confirmed interoperability with Polycom and Vidyo. But the device is SIP-based and H.264-ready, so it could conceivably work with any other SIP- or H.264-based video endpoint. According to Mitel, it deploys as easily as plugging in an IP phone.

"What we're seeing is that customers need simpler collaboration that's easier to use and ready when they are -- not just reserved for special occasions," Moore-Bayley said. "It has to be there for spontaneous collaboration and has to leverage their existing investments."

Under the hood, the UC360 is an Android-based device and sports a dual 1GHz processor core with hardware video acceleration, and the user interface is a 7-inch, multitouch display. It has an HDMI video interface with HD monitor, flat screen and support for standard projection, and includes SmartOffice, the popular document sharing technology made by U.K.-based Picsel. It's enabled for remote access and includes a USB and Micro SD card.

Audiowise, the UC360 offers 22KHz HD audio support in a 16 mic beam-forming array, includes a dedicated digital signal processor and corporate directory access, and has a four-party audio bridge. Videowise, it offers a presentation display capability for remote participants, has a built-in, four-party HD video bridge, and supports an Ethernet camera up to 720p x 30 fps.

The U360 is expected to hit general availability in August.