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Avaya to simplify video calling

The voice and video products manufacturer teams up with Polycom, an Internet Protocol phone maker, to facilitate videoconferencing with a click from a computer.

Avaya announced an agreement with conference-room telephone maker Polycom that's meant to kick-start the companies' collaborative Internet videoconferencing business.

Videoconferencing is available to all 10,000 North American businesses that Avaya outfitted with Polycom phones and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gear.

While many companies are using VoIP to make less expensive calls, videoconferencing and similar cost-saving methods of communication languish because the cameras and other equipment are too difficult for most people to contend with, analysts say.

Avaya and Polycom on Monday announced plans for a mid-2004 debut of software they're co-developing that is designed to tackle the problem. It will enable people to initiate videoconferences over the Internet by just clicking on a desktop icon, according to Avaya convergence strategist Lawrence Byrd.

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"If I'm on my VoIP telephone, I want to press a button and the video pops up on a screen on my laptop," Byrd said. "But it's fairly traditional now that if you want video, somebody has to set it up for you."

Whether the dramatic changes promised by 2004 will increase videoconferencing remains to be seen. Byrd concedes that videoconferences now take place in less than 1 percent of the world's 55 million conference rooms and 360 million business PCs.

As part of the new agreements with Pleasanton, Calif.-based Polycom, Avaya will be selling Polycom's equipment globally instead of just in North America.

Also on Monday, Avaya, which is headquartered in Basking Ridge, N.J., introduced a new version of its Communications Manager software, the core of its VoIP lineup. The update uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to protect Internet calls from hackers.

The company also added so-called "Extension to Cellular," which forwards office phone calls to a cell phone.

A second generation of Avaya Internet phones that use Wi-Fi networks also debuted Monday. Prices were not immediately disclosed for the 3616 IP Wireless Telephone for offices and the more rugged 3626 IP Wireless Telephone for industrial settings.