3M is readying a four-way video conferencing system which it claims will be the first standards-based multi-pointing system without an external bridge.
The product, as yet unnamed, will be brought to market early next year.
Pricing will be announced then.
In the second half of 1999, the vendor will introduce a product tailored to run on the corporate LAN. But 3M has no plans yet to use the Internet for video conferencing, as tests show that the performance of the Internet cannot be guaranteed.
Next year's video conferencing push follows a disappointing beginning this year. In March, 3M set up a specialised Advanced Meeting Solutions division with a raft of new video conferencing offerings aimed at the boardroom. But the sales and distribution infrastructure was not in place at that time. "Until a year or 18 months ago, video conferencing had been limited to blue chip companies," said Robert Kucharczyk, European sales manager at 3M's Advanced Meeting Solutions division. "But one of 3M's strategic plans is to make the technology mainstream."
The price of video conferencing is falling. Two years ago, a boardroom-quality video conferencing kit cost #25,000; now a start up pack is #4,560, Kucharczyk pointed out.
3M's product range requires ISDN, and the picture quality of the conference depends on the number of ISDN lines available. In the past, most of the company's customers already had ISDN, but as 3M targets companies with less than 500 employees, the price of ISDN could become an issue.
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