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Sony and GlowPoint Announce Availability of IVE

Collaboration and convergence were once again hot topics at this year’s Streaming Media East show. Like most buzzwords, though, the meaning of each of those terms differed from vendor to vendor and attendee to attendee, usually depending upon what product or solution was being hyped or sought.

For consumer electronics giant Sony Electronics and IP communications service provider GlowPoint, convergence means the coming together of products, content, and services, according to Eric Murphy, VP of conferencing solutions for Sony. (Alas, though GlowPoint CTO Michael Brandofino sat on a video over IP panel, neither vendor exhibited at the show, a reminder that another type of collaboration—the kind that brings together consumer electronics and business solutions—is going on outside the narrowly defined streaming space.) Together, the two companies announced the Instant Video Everywhere (IVE) IP-based communication service in February, and they launched the business portion of the service today.

IVE (pronounced "ivy") is an effort to make video conferencing and one-to-one video calls as easy as using the telephone, according to GlowPoint CEO and president David Trachtenberg. Numerous video conferencing and video chat solutions are on the market; what sets IVE apart is that, unlike traditional videoconferencing or platform-specific solutions like Apple’s iChat AV, it’s "endpoint-agnostic," Trachtenberg says. The Sony-branded IVE video portal—a session initiation protocol (SIP)-based software client that sits on your desktop or laptop workstation—interfaces with traditional H.323 conferencing solutions as well as legacy ISDN (H.320) video systems, landlines, cellular, and 3G phones. It works anywhere there’s a broadband connection. "The two-way video market will only take off when we put video where people actually do business," says Trachtenberg, "and that’s not just in conference rooms."

Crucial to the IVE strategy is the way in which it mimics traditional telephony, and that strategy is revealed in several of the service’s key features:

• IVE assigns each user a 10-digit telephone number rather than an IP address.
• It replaces "service unavailable" messages—the two-way video equivalent of a busy signal—with "Lisa," a video call assistant that presents users with options including the ability to leave a video message.
• It offers the video equivalent of voicemail, allowing callers to leave video messages. IVE then sends the recipient a voice mail indicating there’s an awaiting video message, which can then be watched via streaming on the IVE client.
• The IVE client can place voice-only calls to recipients who don’t have video capability.

IVE also offers a video meeting room option, which combines elements of chat room and video conference call services and is accessible from any other videoconferencing system, standard telephone, or cell phone. Users can initiate the video meeting room function without operator assistance or reservations, allowing for "spontaneous audio and video conferencing, regardless of the devices involved" Trachtenberg says.

The IVE Business service, which works on traditional conference-room videoconferencing systems like the Sony PCS-TL50 and is priced starting at $499 per month, has been in beta testing since February, and became generally available June 1. IVE Mobile will launch June 15 with a monthly subscription fee of $35, and will let users take the 10-digit direct-dial video number they use in the office on the road for use anywhere broadband or Wi-Fi is available. Both services offer "broadcast-quality" video, says Trachtenberg, noting that IVE was used by ESPN to conduct live interviews during the NFL draft in April.

Yet to come is IVE Home, which Sony’s Murphy says can be integrated into consumer video devices including standard televisions. While there’s no official timetable for IVE Home’s introduction, Trachtenberg says GlowPoint and Sony are viewing IVE Mobile as the "Trojan horse" that will bring the service into the home. "We’re hoping that, just as people use their cell phones and handhelds for both business and personal use, they’ll use IVE the same way," says Trachtenberg.

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