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Lifesize Cloud, video takes on Google in business video conferencing

Lifesize Cloud updates, combined with new hardware video endpoints, competes with Google Chromebox in bringing business video conferencing to huddle rooms.

Lifesize has introduced two hardware video endpoints, which will compete with Google in filling a gap experts say exists between large-scale systems and personal video applications.

Lifesize introduced last week two hardware video endpoints targeted at meeting rooms for three or four people, called huddle rooms. The vendor also updated its LifeSize Cloud video conferencing service, adding more integration between existing business applications and click-to-call functionality from the browser.

Huddle rooms, typically used for impromptu meetings, need video tools for employee collaboration, said Roopam Jain, analyst for Frost and Sullivan. But video conference tools on the market today are often too complex for these spaces. Many businesses, especially small to midsized organizations, need lightweight, but scalable, video conferencing options. 

Business video conferencing: Endpoints for small meeting room settings

In addition to small meeting rooms, the two new hardware video appliances, the Lifesize Icon 400 and Lifesize Icon Flex, are appropriate for secondary conference rooms in a large enterprise. While the endpoints are ideal for midsized businesses with video needs, both products are simple enough for any sized business to deploy and use without IT support, said Craig Malloy, founder and CEO of Lifesize.

The Lifesize Icon 400 requires a subscription to Lifesize Cloud, an online video service that uses the emerging WebRTC standard to enable click-to-call through a Web browser. The two can be paired easily, once the Icon 400 is connected to an IP source. Users can conduct ad hoc calls from a presence-enabled internal directory, as well as schedule meetings with up to 25 participants. Remote employees can enter the meetings via a laptop, tablet or smartphone. The connection to Lifesize Cloud provides automatic software and security updates to the Icon 400, which is available today, Malloy said.

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Unlike the Icon 400, the Lifesize Icon Flex does not require a Lifesize Cloud subscription. The video system is designed for businesses that already use personal collaboration applications, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Cisco Jabber as its primary video meeting tool, Frost and Sullivan's Jain said. 

"Users can plug in their PC or Mac via USB and the Icon Flex takes over the video and audio capture and processing," she said.

The Icon Flex will be available in March, Lifesize said.

The Lifesize Icon Flex and the Lifesize Icon 400 will start at $1,999 and $2,499, respectively, putting pricing in-line with competitor Google Chromebox for Meetings, which starts at $999. Both vendors will be competing for companies looking to implement low cost video conferencing that's also easy to deploy and use, Jain said.

Lifesize Cloud updates

The business video conferencing market is crowded, but software and cloud-based offerings are providing low-cost alternatives to telepresence systems that are expensive and oftentimes difficult to operate. The simplicity of the two new hardware systems, combined with a cloud approach, aligns Lifesize with how users want to buy and use video conferencing, Jain said.

Lifesize Cloud updates include click-to-call connectivity from Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Safari browsers running on any device. Lifesize Cloud users can now take advantage of connectors to existing business applications, including a new Outlook plug-in and a Chrome Extension for scheduling video meetings through Google Calendar. Users can invite attendees directly from Google Calendar or Outlook without opening the Lifesize Cloud application, Malloy said.

Lifesize Cloud is now interoperable with Microsoft Lync. Lync users can join meetings hosted on Lifesize Cloud from their Lync client.

Integration between Lync and Google will be critical for any video conferencing system moving forward. In an effort to build an easy and affordable video strategy, many businesses are standardizing on Lync -- now Skype for Business -- and Google Apps, Jain said.

"The integration extends the benefits of video conferencing by not only allowing users to connect with anyone, but also extending the reach of video conferencing beyond internal usage to external teams such as customers and partners," she said.

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

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