Users want HP to open up SkyRoom

Hewlett Packard’s (HP) low-cost video conferencing and online collaboration offerings resonate with users, but they think the electronics behemoth should work on greater interoperability as well.

HP garnered a lot of kudos when it unveiled its SkyRoom technology last October.

Essentially, the HP client enables users to share any application supported by their PC, including office documents, streaming video, and interactive 3-D applications.

While high-end collaboration and video conferencing systems can cost more than $200,000, SkyRoom is already embedded on many HP workstations, and licensing starts at a mere $199 per user.

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The technology, developed by HP Labs in conjunction with the NASA Mars rover, is a software application, included forfree on Z Series workstations.

For $199 per seat license, it can be used on any Core 2 Duo hardware system running Windows Vista or 7, according to Robert Venturo, workstation specialist, personal systems group at Mississauga, Ont.-based HP Canada.

SkyRoom currently accommodates up to four users and offers live, real-time collaboration, or instant face-to-face meetings with no subscription fees.

Race for interoperability

At the CDW BTEX business and technology expo in Toronto last week, business buyers and IT administrators expressed interest in SkyRoom.

However, not a few wondered about the potential for collaboration and communication with users using other conferencing systems.

Such interoperability would enable SkyRoom to grab a hold of the market, according to Craig Hicks, systems administrator at sustainability engineering firm Enermodal Engineering Ltd. in Kitchener, Ont.

“It’s really a race for interoperability among manufacturers and service providers,” he said. “Whoever can provide interoperability, along with functionality and reliability, gets the market.”

Enermodal specializes in green building tools and projects, and also conducts online training programs in-house for its employees spread across several offices countrywide.

Hicks said the video streaming, 3D imaging, and screen sharing features of SkyRoom would be ideal for Enermodal’s operations.

Currently the company uses Microsoft ShareView, Dimdim Inc.’s online conferencing tool, and Cisco’s Webex Meeting Centre.

These tools basically play in the same space, but there’s great demand for a system that will allow collaboration and conferencing between disparate systems, said Hicks.

He likes SkyRoom’s “low operation costs” and 3D imaging capability, but isn’t happy that the system currently enables conferencing between SkyRoom users only.

“It would be more flexible if I could use it to communicate with clients or colleagues who might be on another system.”

Interoperability on the horizon?

During his presentation at CDW BTEX, Venturo of HP admitted this desire for interoperability has been expressed by others as well.

“We’ve been getting a bit of feedback along those lines.”

He didn’t provide HP’s timetable on interoperability but said: “We’re listening and looking into it.”

Instead, Venturo stressed SkyRoom’s real-time collaboration, 3D high definition capabilities and minimal ownership costs.

“It’s a client that’s sits on the operating system. It can work with Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7.”

He noted that SkyRoom comes free, installed on some HP workstations models. “In many instances, all you need is a headphone and a Webcam. And many of our laptops already have cameras built-in.”

The HP Canada executive said SkyRoom enables up to four users to work on the same document simultaneously.

And videoconferencing doesn’t have to be shelved or suspended, while such document collaboration is happening, he noted.

“The beauty of the system is I can share a document in real-time, in HD 3D and all the while have a videoconferencing going on.”

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