Logitech targets small workgroups with HD videoconferencing unit

The US$249 device is designed for ad-hoc meetings

Logitech hopes to address changes in enterprise teamwork with a high-definition videoconferencing unit designed for ad-hoc collaboration among small groups.

The company's new videoconferencing platform, called the BCC950 ConferenceCam, is intended to fit in between individual PC-based webcams and dedicated room systems. Priced at US$249.99, it comes in well below most dedicated room systems meant for multiple participants. It combines an HD webcam and speakerphone in one unit, which attaches to a PC or Mac via USB.

Logitech designed the ConferenceCam for enterprises that are less structured than traditional companies, with employees belonging to multiple, changing workgroups spread over long distances. These types of employees take part in quickly organized meetings in informal gathering places rather than in dedicated rooms, said Eric Kintz, vice president and general manager of Logitech for Business.

Employees can appear together on the ConferenceCam more easily than with a webcam, and the device is still portable and easy to use, according to Kintz. It can be used with Skype or Microsoft Lync and can become a node in a videoconference involving third-party systems such as Cisco TelePresence, Avaya's Aura communications platform and Logitech's own LifeSize product line, Kintz said.

Though vendors with high-end video systems often emphasize demands for lifelike experiences, most of the growth in videoconferencing in the next few years is expected to come from tools that let more participants join in on meetings, especially via mobile devices such as tablets, according to industry analysts. Among other things, Logitech is positioning its new device as one that lets enterprises equip all their executives' offices for high-quality videoconferencing rather than relying on shared meeting rooms.

Logitech says it has designed the device for high-quality audio as well as high-definition video. The camera is capable of 1080p video capture at 30 frames per second. It has an integrated microphone that can capture sound from 360 degrees around the base unit, plus a small built-in speaker. Audio is full duplex, so participants on two ConferenceCams can speak at the same time. The camera is in a ball that can be attached directly to the base or raised up closer to eye level with a small detachable pole, intended for use on a desk or table.

Using a remote, a user can make the camera pan across a room, zoom in on one person or object, and tilt up and down. The remote can also be used for call control. In a demonstration in a dim room, the image from the camera was sharp, wide enough for three people, and automatically adjusted for slightly greater brightness. The remote was easy to understand, with a simple four-way control for panning and tilting.

The ConferenceCam's interoperability with other systems is thanks to its use of the H.264 video standard, which allows it to work with most other videoconferencing platforms, Kintz said. Though there are differences in lighting and sound between a BCC950 ConferenceCam and dedicated room systems such as Cisco TelePresence, Logitech users will be able to appear in HD quality on the Cisco system.

The BCC950 ConferenceCam is set to ship in May through Logitech for Business's channel partners. Logitech for Business, formed last year to market the company's standard products to businesses, now has started to develop its own products, such as the ConferenceCam, Kintz said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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