LifeSize has launched a new desktop video conferencing product that will allow off-site users to conduct high definition (HD) video conferencing from their laptop or desktop.

Previously, in order to achieve a full HD image in video conferencing, organisations tended to go for expensive high end systems. However, the trend has been for HD to trickle down into cheaper systems, as witnessed by Tandberg's Profile system.

But now LifeSize is moving the HD experience onto people's own personal computers, with a system it is calling the LifeSize Desktop.

According to the company, LifeSize Desktop can work with off-the-shelf web cams. It can deliver a HD video decode at 720p, 30 frames per second, in full 16:9 format, as well as HD audio with echo cancellation.

The company says that it has been designed for performance and efficiency, plus it has a low CPU utilisation so that HD video calls can take place, even with multiple concurrent applications running on the PC.

LifeSize says that remote users can easily connect and receive high quality video at any bandwidth, over the corporate VPN or through LifeSize Transit, for secure NAT/Firewall traversal.

After many years in the wilderness, video conferencing is starting to gain significant traction in the market as it is a viable way for companies to reduce travel expenses and their carbon emissions by lessening the need for expensive air travel.

"It is the prime time now for the video conferencing market," said Andreas Wienold, LifeSize's sales manager for EMEA. "It is not just because of the recession, but also down to the technology and network improvements today."

"In the past video conferencing was a painful experience," he told Techworld. "But the bandwidth is now available and affordable; processing power has changed; and disk space has helped as well. This combination has created a ‘perfect storm' and we are seeing a big push forward for video conferencing."

Wienold sees interest from both enterprise and the SME sectors. "SME is the fastest growing market for new users for video conferencing," he said.

"Resolution of 720p for desktop is a big step forward for desktop video conferencing," said Wienold. "The minimum bandwidth required would be 192Kbit/s, but that would not deliver full HD. Full HD needs 1Mbit/s in order to deliver 30 frames per second and 720p."

LifeSize Desktop is a standalone software client, with the same interface that is used on LifeSize's high-end systems. It is interoperable with other SIP-based desktop or room-based video communications systems.

LifeSize Desktop will be available in the third quarter of this year.

A free 30-day trial will be available for download. Pricing is £165 ($270) per unit and LifeSize Desktop licences are available in packages of 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 seat licences.

LifeSize was one of the companies that had its video conferencing technology installed in the London demonstration centre of BT Conferencing last week. Its CEO, Aaron McCormack, told Techworld that while he envisaged that telepresence systems would move onto the desktop going forward, he didn't think we were quite there yet.

"We have a good history of surprising the market, and making things possible that were not possible before," said Wienold.