Cisco adds videoconferencing to MeetingPlace

Company aggressively pursues uses for IP data network communications

Enterprises can offer video participation in conferences set up with the latest version of Cisco Systems' MeetingPlace software, which already supports simultaneous voice and Web conferences, the company is set to announce Wednesday.

The Cisco MeetingPlace 5.3 offering is the latest in Cisco's aggressive move to leverage IP (Internet Protocol) data networks for multiple forms of communication. It brings together MeetingPlace, which the company acquired last year by buying Latitude Communications Inc., with the Cisco CallManager IP telephony system and Cisco IPVC 3500 Series video MCU (Multipoint Control Unit), a videoconferencing server.

MeetingPlace 5.3, available now, lets enterprises schedule conferences in which participants can choose to appear on video, use Web-based collaboration or just call in, said Mike Fratesi, manager of product marketing in the company's IP (Internet Protocol) Communications group. CallManager and IPVC already support videoconferencing, but only on an ad hoc basis, he said: If two users each have a video end point such as a PC or video terminal connected to their IP phones, they can automatically start up a videoconference.

Through MeetingPlace, users can set up MeetingPlace conferences ahead of time in Microsoft Corp. Outlook or IBM Corp. Lotus Notes calendars or via a Web interface, as well as setting up traditional telephone dial-in codes, Fratesi said. Participants can receive a reminder and get into the conference by clicking on a single link, then decide whether they want to participate via video, Web collaboration, voice or all three. During the conference, participants can view one other user at a time or divide their display up into separate screens to show four users. MeetingPlace also gives the manager of the conference the ability to mute participants, Fratesi said.

MeetingPlace, which consists of software and a server, is priced starting at $69,995 for support of 30 conferencing ports.

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