HP, Hollywood Co-Produce Conferencing Solution

HP this week announced a partnership with DreamWorks Animation to introduce a collaboration studio for simulating face-to-face business meetings across long distances.

The HP Halo Collaboration Studio enables people in different locations to communicate in a face-to-face environment in real time. HP said PepsiCo and Advanced Micro Devices are already using the product.

“The HP Halo Collaboration Studio enables remote teams to work together in a setting so lifelike that participants feel as though they are in the same room,” said Vyomesh Joshi, executive vice president of the Imaging and Printing Group at HP.

“To create this experience, HP is harnessing its expertise in color science, imaging and networking in this new category of innovation. It’s something we believe will not only disrupt the traditional video conferencing market, but will also change the way people work in a global market.”

From the Boardroom to the Studio

The Halo Collaboration Studio is a broadcast studio with conferencing components. Here’s how it works: To connect via Halo, organizations purchase at least two Halo rooms set up for six people each. There are three plasma displays in each room that enable participants to see those they are collaborating with in life-size images.

The rooms come equipped with studio-quality audio and lighting, and participants use an on-screen user interface to begin collaborating. A software control system provides image and color calibration, and a dedicated HP Halo Video Exchange Network offers a high-bandwidth experience.

Participants can share documents and data directly from their notebook PCs with individuals in other rooms using a collaboration screen mounted above the plasma displays. The rooms also contain a high-magnification camera that enables individuals to zoom in on objects on a table, and a phone that opens a conference call line to those not in one of the Halo rooms.

To ensure a 24×7 connection and eliminate the need for enterprises to manage the operation and maintenance of a Halo room, HP said it is including services like network operations and management, remote diagnostics and calibration, concierge, equipment warranty and ongoing service and repair.

The Price of Progress

HP has 13 Halo Collaboration Studios installed at its facilities worldwide. The cost of the solution varies depending on the number of rooms purchased. In smaller quantities, the rooms are approximately US$550,000 each; pricing falls as more rooms are purchased by the same companies.

Network and service fees in the United States are $18,000 monthly per room. These fees vary in other countries. HP, through its financing arm HP Financial Services, is offering a 48-month financing payment plan in which U.S. customers would pay less than $30,000 per month per HP Halo Collaboration Studio room, including network and service fees. Additional monthly payment plans are also available for 36-month and 60-month terms.

Ira Weinstein, senior analyst with Wainhouse Research, told TechNewsWorld that HP deserves kudos for creating a solid, though far from revolutionary, meeting experience. The downside, he said, is that it is expensive.

“This solution is pricey for what it’s delivering,” Weinstein said. “And there are some less expensive competitors in the market who arguably have at least some of the same capabilities and overall experience. That’s a concern.”

Competing for Conferencing

Those other companies include Destiny Conferencing with its TeleSuite product and TeleIris. Both companies offer similar dedicated video conferencing environment solutions, albeit in slightly different form factors, and at much lower prices.

Then again, these small companies don’t have HP’s name, HP’s marketplace presence, or HP’s relationships with large companies. HP, in other words, has a foot in the door of Corporate America that it’s smaller competitors do not. Still, it may not be enough to broker skyrocketing adoption, according to analysts.

“You need really high-flying executives whose time is worth so much a minute that an investment like this becomes a no-brainer,” Weinstein said. “What’s the real market size for these types of solution? Is it 500 of these types of systems a year? Is it 1,000? Who knows? It’s got to be a small market, and it’s got to get smaller as you crank up the price.”

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