LifeSize Looks to Change Telepresence Equation

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LifeSize is looking to disrupt the telepresence video conference market with its new Unity line of high-definition products that provide “telepresence-like quality” at a fraction of the cost and deployment hassle.

Video-conferencing specialist LifeSize says telepresence is dead, sort of.

With its new Unity line of HD, easy-to-deploy and relatively low-cost desktop and conference room video-conferencing products, LifeSize is looking to change the telepresence equation to one that doesn’t require expensive, complicated specialty room deployments. As LifeSize, a subsidiary of Logitech, aptly says, it’s taking telepresence out of the corner office.

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“Let’s face it: Businesses need to speed decision-making and improve productivity across the entire organization. By creating a series of products optimized to provide a telepresence-class experience, yet simple to deploy and use, we are making HD video conferencing easier than ever to bring to every home office, executive office or conference room,” said Michael Helmbrecht, vice president and general manager of video solutions at LifeSize.

The first two products of the new Unity series are the Unity 50 tabletop and the Unity 500, a conference room deployment. The Unity 50 provides 720p quality through a 24-inch integrated camera, audio and video unit. The Unity 500 provides 1080p quality with a 40-inch screen and integrated audio and cameras. Both units connect to phones and PCs, making the management and operation simple for users.

The LifeSize differentiator is its software, which allows video conferencing connections beyond the LifeSize platform and to multiple devices. Users have the option of using cloud and on-premise solutions to extend quality video connections to desktop PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Helmbrecht tells Channelnomics the Unity is positioned for ease of deployment, so solution providers and end users don’t require entire room makeovers or extended installations. The Unity 50, for instance, only requires two cables for installation and immediate operations.

Neither of the initial Unity units is cheap. The Unity 50 starts at $3,999 and the complete Unity 500 solution carries a $19,999 price tag. While they're far cheaper than the room-installation telepresence solutions sold by Cisco and Polycom, they're vastly more expensive than even the premium services offered by more consumer-grade video services such as Skype and WebEx.

Even at these lower prices, telepresence – or the notion of high-end video conferencing – seems reserved for businesses that require quality in video resolution and connectivity. But the new LifeSize Unity products represent an important evolutionary step in bringing down the costs and improving  the user experience of what will undoubtedly become mainstream technology.

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