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VDOnet upgrade targets broadband

VDOnet announces an upgrade of its videoconferencing software with higher-quality sound and images, underscoring the company's move into cable modem and intranet markets.

VDOnet announced an upgrade of its videoconferencing software today with higher-quality sound and images, underscoring the company's move into cable modem and intranet markets.

As previously reported by CNET, the company's plan is the latest example of software firms upgrading their products for faster broadband networks. Many of the VDOnet's competitors, such as White Pine, C-Phone, Vosaic, and Progressive Networks, are taking similar steps. Videoconferencing is becoming a key feature for some Netizens, and it could become a $3 billion market by the year 2000, according to some estimates.

VDOnet's actions are being watched closely. Besides being a market leader, its investors are Microsoft, US West Media Group, Nynex, and Battery Ventures, among others.

"This product launch is a first step" in the strategic move toward broadband networks and intranets, said Steve Chambers, vice president for VDOnet. "The core competencies we have are one- and two-way video and scalability."

Dubbed VDOPhone 3.0, the upgrade will be available this month, initially for Windows 95. VDOPhone Internet 3.0 is priced at $59, while VDOPhone Professional (H.324 plus Internet) 3.0 costs $79.

The upgrade offers compatibility with the H.324 and T.120 standards for connectivity and data sharing over regular phone lines. A software developer kit lets independent software vendors and original equipment makers integrate those standards, along with H.323, thereby allowing interoperability between videophones from different manufacturers.

The software developer kit is the first for VDOPhone to add video to applications such as Net telephony, online chat, e-commerce, interactive training, and corporate call centers.

"We are already seeing corporate customers developing call centers and customer support capabilities by combining VDOPhone and VDOLive for streaming video," Chambers said. By year's end, "we expect to see a variety of additional examples of these, as well as consumer applications, being developed by our cable partners."

One example, he added, would be for Netizens to book an airline ticket online via a video conversation with an agent. In addition, they could see a travel clip from Maui, for example. One criticism about online booking has been the lack of such features.