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HP Canada unveils SkyRoom

New low cost video conferencing solutions to be featured on Z Series workstations for free

The first thing you notice about HP’s new SkyRoom technology is that there’s no room, and that’s the point of the product.

SkyRoom is not Halo, nor is it any other telepresence video conferencing solution. What HP (NYSE: HPQ) is trying to do with SkyRoom is open a new market for videoconferencing on the low end.

The technology, developed by HP Labs in conjunction with the NASA Mars rover, is a software solution that will be featured for free on Z Series workstations or for $169 per seat license that can be used on any Core 2 Duo hardware platform running Windows Vista or 7. SkyRoom is currently for four users and offers live, real-time collaboration or instant face-to-face meetings with no subscription fees.

According to Maria Del Rio-Arbuckle, category business manager, workstations and commercial displays for Hewlett-Packard Canada, SkyRoom is superior to Internet offerings such as Skype or Live Meeting because those lack security and have low quality video.

“Over the years, HP has spent time talking to customers about communications and collaboration across many segments and there was always this common thread: it’s difficult to collaborate with distributed teams,” Del Rio-Arbuckle said.

SkyRoom can only be run on one network, but can reach out to remote workers through VPN connection. Bandwidth issues have also been addressed by HP with SkyRoom. Since the main presenter can only manipulate the documents or applications the other three users in the SkyRoom session will be shown a pixelized view. There are no documents, PowerPoint presentations or applications to download or open for up to three users, saving precious bandwidth.

SkyRoom can even share interactive 3D imagines from CAD/CAM applications and streaming videos.

Michelle Warren, industry analyst for MW Research and Consulting of Toronto, said that video conferencing is an industry which is gaining steam. By targeting internal corporate communications, HP is focusing on a niche part of the market. Combined with its competitive pricing and relatively uncomplicated set up, SkyRoom offers reseller partners an opportunity to deliver an attractive solution to corporate clients.

“Operating on the Microsoft platform addresses the majority of corporate environments. Also, as businesses continue look for cost saving mechanisms, this provides a solution to costly air and overnight travel expenses,” Warren said.

Del Rio-Arbuckle added that Z Series workstations will not increase in price because SkyRoom is loaded on, giving the channel an opportunity to address the video conferencing needs of small business users.

“For the price of an airline ticket you can SkyRoom that is a deskspace collaboration solution that has instant ROI. When you travel, where it is flying or in a vehicle there is time involved going from place to place. When you fly out of town you lose half a day at least of productivity,” Del Rio-Arbuckle said.

A Web cam and headset are also required.