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HP launches smaller Halo telepresence system

It hopes to capitalize on companies that want to reduce travel costs

March 18, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Hoping to capitalize on the rising costs of energy and travel, Hewlett-Packard Co. announced today a two- and four-seat versions of its room-size high-end Halo videoconferencing system.

The new HP Halo Collaboration Center can be moved to multiple locations, such as a conference room or an executive's office. Pricing will start at $120,000 for hardware in each room, in addition to a monthly $12,000 service fee that includes network costs, HP officials said.

The hardware for one room includes two or four chairs, movable front and back walls, a table, a high-definition video camera, a large monitor, and related audio and switching equipment, said Mark Gorzynski, HP Halo's chief scientist. HP owns and controls the global network and hubs that transmit the video streams, to ensure the video quality for important telepresence meetings, he said. Up to four locations can be served simultaneously, and that number can be expanded with videoconferencing gear from HP partner Tandberg.

As gasoline prices soar and travel expenses mount, HP is adding the smaller videoconferencing system to help companies have full use of video collaboration technology, Gorzynski said.

HP announced its first Halo product in 2005, the HP Halo Collaboration Studio, for setting up meetings among four sites by using large studio-type spaces built to demanding standards for sound and lighting. Each studio is ideal for six people but can accommodate as many as 14, Gorzynski said. Equipment for one Halo Studio now costs $349,000, nearly three times the cost of the new Halo Center, according to HP. Last year, the company announced a smaller version for use in existing meeting rooms, called the HP Halo Collaboration Meeting Room, for $249,000.

Halo Studios are in use in 22 countries, but HP won't reveal how many there are altogether. HP said Dow Chemical and PepsiCo are among its customers. Pharmaceutical maker AstraZeneca PLC said in a statement that the use of Halo has helped by supporting the high-quality and frequent collaboration that is needed in developing medicines.

In addition to the new hardware, HP also announced that its Halo products will be installed in special telepresence rooms for use by the public inside Marriott International Inc. hotels. Specific locations inside major business centers globally will be announced at a later time, HP said.

HP announced its Halo Collaboration Center, a smaller version of its Halo videoconferencing system. (Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard Co.)
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said it makes sense for HP to build a smaller system with a lower price so that companies can install videoconferencing equipment in branch offices and more locations. "High-definition videoconferencing systems can pay for themselves if a lot of employees can stay off planes and build a habit of using them instead of flying to meetings," Enderle said.

"In a recessionary year, this system will probably get a lot of play as companies will cut back on expenses, and travel is a big one," he added.

Enderle said Cisco Systems Inc. may be the biggest competitor for the high-end, room-size telepresence system provided by Halo, with a focus on high definition and quality. While Cisco guarantees the quality of its service, it doesn't own the entire network pipe as HP does with Halo, he said.

Whereas Tandberg and Polycom Inc. started with small desktop videoconferencing and are moving to much larger systems, HP and Cisco are starting big and appear to be moving to smaller systems, Enderle added.

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