Considering LifeSize Desktop Software

LifeSize-logoAustin-based LifeSize recently released a software-based PC video conferencing client that they call the LifeSize Desktop. Since I’m always looking for new tools I took the opportunity to download the 30 day free trial and have it installed on a desktop and laptop, both running Windows XP.

The software is intended to be a SIP soft client for their HD video conferencing products. To that end they recommend it be used with a webcam that supports 720p images, that is 1280 x 720 pixels @ 30 frame/sec. At the time of its release the only one available was the Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000. Since then Microsoft has announced a suitable webcam. I expect that others will eventually do so as well.

My desktop already had an older Logitech Quickcam Fusion that at 640×480 pixels was probably not going to be good enough, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I had a few of these webcams hanging around from an ill-fated attempt to get my coworkers interested in webcam-based one-on-one video calling.

LifeSizeDesktop

The image above was screen captured on my desktop. I was using the Logitech Quickcam Fusion on both PCs. It’s been scaled down to fit the blog page.

In truth I didn’t get very far with trialing the video part of the software before 30 days passed and the installations timed out. I did decide to purchase the newer webcam, but by the time it arrived the software was demanding that I purchase a license. When I inquired with LifeSize I found that each license is $200 USD.

Before the new webcam arrived I tried some basic interop testing against SIP phones that I have around here. I was happy to find that the software supports G.722, G.722.1 and G.722.1C wideband audio.

I had no problems with voice calling to Polycom SoundPoint (G.722) and VVX-1500 phones (G.722.1) as well as Gigasets and various soft phones. I just registered the LifeSize Desktop with OnSIP and started making calls.  That makes it possibly a nice solution for a wideband soft phone, although expensive compared to other possibilities.

It also offers decent network statistics display while engaged in a call. It tell you the basic data rates ongoing, codecs engaged, etc. It also has LDAP integration, which would be good for larger operations.

The software picks up the audio and video devices installed to Windows, relying upon the Windows system settings for the technical details. In my case the Logitech camera and the ClearOne Chat 50 speakerphone were immediately recognized and usable.

The funny part of all of this is that I first started experimenting with the software just to satisfy my own curiosity. But near the end of the 30 day trial I find that I’m truly faced with researching a video conference system for work. Now the trial downloads are defunct and I’m faced with evaluating the software as part of a larger solution for a funded project.

I hope to get access to another go at the trial version of the software. If I do I’ll try to record some sample clips and get into the details in greater depth.

Telebit Consulting has also posted a review of their initial experiences with LifeSize Desktop.