Saturday, May 25, 2024

Avistar Extends Video Messaging Beyond Enterprise

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Video messaging player Avistar Communications is taking steps to bring its
presence-based intra-enterprise messaging system outside company borders —
making the solution more appealing, but also raising the specter of greater

The ten-year-old, Redwood Shores, Calif.-based firm’s new Community
Exchange and AvistarVOS Proxy offerings are jointly aimed at making it
easier for businesses to deploy video communications to their employees
while enabling their workers to communicate with users at other businesses.

The additions build on the firm’s AvistarVOS presence-based video
messaging system, which offers desktop-based, two-way video chatting from
IM-like Buddy Lists. Enterprises, meanwhile, control users’ communications
privileges — whether certain groups of users can talk to or receive
presence information from others, for instance.

So far, the service has appealed mainly to large companies, particularly
those with remote branch offices and dedicated communications
infrastructure. UBS Warburg, for instance, began with a pilot of Avistar’s
system over ISDN and dedicated lines in 1998, but since has increased
support for the company’s offering tremendously — such that the
international financial services giant routinely sees more than 1,000
employees using the technology each month, and increasingly over IP, also
supported by the firm.

But that service hasn’t extend beyond the enterprise — until now. Using
the AvistarVOS Proxy Servers, enterprises can expose their employees’
presence information to the outside; the data, along with IP and ISDN
network availability, optimal routing, call status, system resources and
other information, is gleaned from AvistarVOS servers and delivered to
Community Exchanges at other firms.On the receiving end, an enterprise’s
Avistar Community Exchange, running on a company’s secure Web server,
gathers presence information and serves that to its AvistarVOS users.

“Customers demand video conferencing solutions that enable greater
collaboration capabilities and fit with the way they work,” said Avistar
Chief Executive Jerry Burnett. “Our new products enable video connections
between enterprises, right from the desktop. As a result, we expect they
will help users make faster decisions, sell more, increase productivity and
reduce time to market. Users should develop stronger relationships with
their clients and colleagues through more face time and seamless
collaboration regardless of whether they work across the hall or in another

Enabling enterprises to message each other is a boon for the firm, which
is but one of a growing number of players in the field of presence-enabled
video messaging — all of whom are banking that enterprises become the big
market for their technology. Microsoft , for one, has
been linking its Windows NetMeeting with MSN Messenger and Windows Messenger
since the Windows XP launch — and includes more potential for the
technology in its upcoming “Greenwich” Real-Time Communications server.

Similarly, New York-based VIDISolutions debuted its solution in August,
while Comverse, Legato Video, and Eyeball Networks also are exploring the space. Several video players,
most notably Webcam maker Logitech, also market add-on products for public
IM systems, although the offerings aren’t specifically aimed at the
enterprise market.

One of the ways that marketers of video IM solutions are looking to break
out of the competitive clutter is by integrating with other, related
technologies. Avistar, for one, has announced support for Session Initiation
Protocol — a major transport from the Voice over IP arena, now finding its
way into instant messaging products and other areas. The firm is marketing a
MultiChannel Gateway that supports SIP, and plans other SIP-related products
this year.

Linking video conferencing to IM, VoIP and other communications
technologies could win Avistar favor with big clients making infrastructure
investments in those areas as well — which certainly would be good news,
since the firm’s revenues have been struggling in conjunction with the
dot-com slowdown. But it also means that Avistar will come into closer
competition with Microsoft, which is expected to launch its SIP-compatible
“Greenwich” Real-Time Communications Server within months.

Christopher Saunders is managing editor of

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