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Polycom brings videoconferencing to iPad, Android tablets

The company hopes to make mobile videoconferencing easier for businesses through an application for the iPad and Android tablets.

Polycom engineer Sam Kennedy demonstrates the company's newly unveiled business-grade video conferencing application on the iPad 2.
Roger Cheng/CNET

Polycom today unveiled a new videoconferencing application, RealPresence Mobile, that will run on the iPad 2 and Android tablets.

The app runs on Polycom's RealPresence platform, which runs its standard videoconferencing rooms and terminals that include larger high-definition televisions and speaker systems. The idea is to encourage even more videoconferencing use by enabling the tablets to talk with the larger videoconference rooms.

Polycom is looking to play a bigger part in the white-hot mobile space, branching out from the videoconferencing rooms and audio equipment that make up its bread-and-butter business. Its main rival, Cisco Systems, has a number of desktop and mobile applications that enable videoconferencing as well. Polycom is hoping the ease of use of its application will give it an edge in this new market.

"It's one of the most significant growth opportunity of unified communication," Andy Miller Polycom told CNET.

Polycom is offering the application in Apple's App Store and Android Marketplace for free starting today. It will work on the iPad 2, the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and will eventually expand to other tablets. Miller is scheduled to present the application during his keynote speech at the CTIA Enterprise & Application conference on Wednesday.

The app can connect up to 16 calls at once, although the screen can practically only support up to a dozen screens. It allows users to "swipe" in documents such as Powerpoint presentations and PDFs for everyone to view and discuss. The app can also use a virtual private network to create a secure line to a company.

Miller said Polycom holds an advantage over all of the alternatives. He said Cisco uses a proprietary technology that isn't as open as Polycom's service. Startup Vidyo also has its own mobile conferencing application, which Miller said doesn't satisfy "real-world needs." Skype, meanwhile, is a proprietary network for video communications. Polycom is aiming to get its app on as many devices as possible, with eventual work on the iPhone and smartphones.

Miller, however, added he is working with Apple and Skype to ensure that their disparate videoconferencing systems work with each other. He said he is in early discussion with Apple to potentially open up Facetime.

"I believe they do care," he said, adding that the two companies see the importance of cross-video conferencing in industries such as education and health care.

You can download the application and run basic video calls. But to get the full Polycom portfolio of services and features, a business will have to sign up for an account and assign it to an individual device.

Polycom plans to launch a marketing campaign to promote the app following the keynote presentation tomorrow.