Mitel pitches UC 360 appliance for SMB video conferencing

Mitel announces its UC 360 SMB video conferencing and collaboration appliance, bringing telepresence on a small scale to the SMB market.

Telepresence and other room-based video conferencing systems can be ideal for collaboration at large enterprises, but the equipment for these systems is pricey, leaving small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with few options.

SMBs have traditionally relied on audio teleconferencing for meetings, but tabletop video-conferencing equipment and tools geared toward SMB video conferencing can help fill the gap for smaller companies looking to move from traditional teleconferences to affordable video calls.

"Video conferencing used to be on the high-end as a communications mode, but there is a demand for it among SMBs, and these [businesses] need a cost-effective answer," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for Infonetics Research.

SMB video conferencing can provide a flexible middle ground for SMBs looking to escalate teleconferences to video calls but lacking the resources for expensive telepresence.

SMB video conferencing: An SMB answer to telepresence?

Video and telepresence vendors -- like Cisco and Polycom -- have expanded from offering exclusive and expensive, room-based systems to more affordable products that can be deployed to a bigger pool of enterprise users, but the SMB market has traditionally been underserved, Myers said.

UC vendor Mitel recently announced its UC 360multimedia collaboration appliance, based on the Android operating system. The small tabletop device can combine with external cameras and displays to deliver simple-to-use, multi-party HD video and audio, in-room presentation display and document sharing to the personal meeting space. The UC 360 can be deployed easily in a conference room or an SMB office, noted Wendy Moore-Bayley, director of market development for Mitel.

UC 360 can drop into new branch offices and remote employees can easily dial into the video call from mobile devices -- conferencing advantages that larger enterprises have grown accustomed to for their video conferencing strategy, she said.

Smaller companies that may lack adequate IT resources to support an evolving UC strategy need a future-proof UC environment with an offering that is intuitive and can grow with them while always allowing remote employees or business partners to join seamlessly, Moore-Bayley noted.

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While this collaboration appliance will not create the same highly immersive experience that room-based telepresence systems offer, at $1,995 the UC 360's price is right for a cost-efficient video strategy for the SMB, Myers noted.

"[UC360] serves as a middle ground between the high-end, room-based telepresesence systems and low-end desktop video tied to a PC," said Ken Landoline, principal analyst of unified communications and contact center for Current Analysis Inc.

The SMB video-conferencing appliance also leverages existing office tools -- like video displays and cameras -- for the cost-conscious SMB, he said. "It's like the desktop phone married a tablet -- the interface is very user-friendly, intuitive and graphically oriented for the user."

Mitel, Vidyo offer HD video, regardless of endpoint

Mitel also announced a partnership with Vidyo for the integration of that company's multipoint HD video communications for desktop and mobile communications with Mitel's UC and collaboration (UCC) offerings.

Vidyo leverages Apple's iPad as a video endpoint -- a big gain for Mitel, Landoline said. The UC 360 product, among other Mitel products, is integrated with Vidyo technology.

SMBs are demanding the same flexibility from their UC tools that was once reserved for large enterprises. Mitel's UC 360 allows for up to four different endpoints to dial in and collaborate on a video call simultaneously, connecting from any SIP-based PBX product or mobile device.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

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