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WebRTC video conferencing review: LifeSize video, powered by WebRTC

A review of the latest LifeSize video conferencing service, LifeSize Cloud.

I usually decline when a vendor wants to use video conferencing to brief me on a product because setting up a video session is too much of a hassle for a 30-minute briefing. But LifeSize Cloud, a new WebRTC-based video conferencing service, requires no more effort to set up than most audio conferencing bridges do. It also cuts down on user frustration because the first several minutes of meetings aren't taken up by technical issues.

Video conferencing vendor LifeSize, a division of Logitech, has unveiled LifeSize Cloud, its new software as a service, WebRTC-based video collaboration offering.

Although WebRTC video conferencing is still a new concept for most businesses, many vendors are already releasing enterprise-grade voice and video applications and cloud-based WebRTC video services ahead of the unfinished standard. WebRTC video conferencing could potentially boost enterprise video adoption because it removes many of the obstacles associated with getting a Web-based video meeting up and running, such as downloading applications or installing extra plug-ins.

Using LifeSize Cloud was easy

LifeSize Cloud allows users to connect to their meetings using corporate-issued devices -- including laptops -- or any Android, iOS or Windows-based smartphone or tablet. Businesses can also use their existing room-based video conferencing investments. I connected to a LifeSize video conferencing demo using a Windows laptop and an external Logitech webcam.

I started the demo by clicking on a Web link LifeSize provided. The link opened a portal in a Google Chrome browser. The portal requested my email address, and asked permission via "yes" or "no" boxes to allow LifeSize to access my microphone and camera. Ease of use is encouraging, especially when it comes to adopting a new form of technology. I really appreciated not having to fill out a registration page or enter a username and passcode. The system isn't wide open, however. Users can assign meeting room numbers to ensure a conference stays private.

During my video conference, I spoke with Craig Malloy, founder and CEO, and Casey King, CTO of LifeSize, who spoke with me from a conference room in New York City. The picture and sound quality were very clear, so I didn't miss any details of the briefing, and the meeting felt natural, with no lagging or buffering video.

The new service allows businesses to connect with an unlimited number of guest users, who can simply follow a Web link, as I did. Every employee with a paid LifeSize Cloud account has access to their own on-demand, 25-user bridge for audio and video meetings.

More on LifeSize video and WebRTC video conferencing:

WebRTC primer: Using Web browsers for video conferencing, calls

LifeSize debuts video support for Skype

How WebRTC could turn enterprise video on its ear

Malloy and King were able to loop in several other LifeSize colleagues during the meeting via video, and each meeting participant was shown in the right-hand corner with the current speaker appearing the largest. At the same time, content was also shared in the center of the screen. While I didn't have access to every feature during my briefing, I was shown a demonstration of how an employee's company directory auto-populates within the LifeSize Cloud and across every device an employee chooses to use for conferencing. LifeSize Cloud account holders can also click to call contacts, check presence status, and quickly connect for an on-the-fly meeting from the device of their choosing.

LifeSize Cloud is now globally available, and pricing starts at $25 per month per user, with a minimum of 25 users, Malloy said. The company is also providing a free, 14-day trial on its website. While all features are available to users during the trial, video calls will be limited to 60 minutes each, LifeSize said.

WebRTC video conferencing could help video adoption

The ease of use of WebRTC video services like LifeSize cloud has some experts hopeful about video conferencing adoption. "Anything to reduce the number of clicks is going to really help boost video adoption," said Phil Karcher, analyst at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester Research Inc. "Meeting codes will still be important, however, because that is a security best practice, but users won't have to deal with annoying plug-ins."

The LifeSize video conferencing service currently uses Google Chrome. As an avid Firefox user, I'd ideally like to use my familiar browser once the standard reaches completion.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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