The Wintel alliance is expected to announce a further partnership to standardise the use of videophones on the Internet.
Microsoft and Intel will propose the adoption of the H.323 standard for two of their own products with other machines coming from other manufacturers at the beginning of next year.
The release of the products will undercut high end videoconferencing systems including Picturetel?s. For some time, Intel has been steadily cutting the price of its own Pro Share products as a response to freeware products like CU See Me, originally developed by Cornell University. It has been responsible for the promotion of H.323 and its Pro Share system is already in wide use throughout the world.
Although quality over videophones is hampered by poor bandwidth and multiple hops between countries, the low price of connections has caused widespread interest. The telcos, including BT and AT&T, have not so far shown much nervousness about high tariffs being undercut.
As well as the software, the price of which neither Intel nor Microsoft were able to provide at press time, end users will need a low cost video camera, priced around the #100 mark, which sits on top of a PC.
Although it is feasible to use CU See Me and the Intel/Microsoft systems using dial-up lines, in practice the frame rate refresh is so slow that only the widespread availability of ISDN or cable modem systems will make it an attractive option.
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