Users including NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax have begun testing networked multimedia applications at a new lab facility set up by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft.
The three technology companies opened the Networked Multimedia Lab last week, the first fruits of the Networked Multimedia Connection (NMC), their collaboration announced last March.
"The lab is about helping corporate customers to spend as long as they want in the lab dealing with products and technology," said Noury Bernard-Hason, group manager of systems engineering at Microsoft. The lab is available for use free of charge to customers by appointment and may also be used by ISVs to test applications on the infrastructure installed there.
The banks, among the first to use the lab, are testing applications such as video conferencing, video on demand and streamed media applications.
Halifax, which has already endorsed the project, said that it would normally have to spend a lot of resources in establishing such a set-up.
There were words of caution from some, however. "It's helpful to see the possibilities but at the end of the day everybody's environment is different," said Trevor Harvey, consultant with BP, another company looking at the possibilities of video conferencing over its new network. (See this week's story on page 5)
"It's a good idea but only if it's well applied," he added. "One of the problems of these theoretical or simulated set-ups is linking them with actual environments. If it is orientated around real life situations then it could be very useful."
The European Networked Multimedia Lab is based in Cisco's UK offices in Stockley Park, near London. A similar set-up is already in place in San Jose and more labs are planned for Europe. NMC programme managers and technical teams are on hand to help customers in their testing.
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