TIMPO's Lunar system shines

 TIMPO has ordered four Lunar systems for testing and may order up to a
dozen more. Ferrel said he hopes they will replace desktop videoconferencing systems now
in use.

 "When desktop video came out, it provided a good service for us," he said.
"But when you're on it five or six hours a day, your PC is completely tied up. I was
trying to find something for executives to use in the conference room."

 Also, it's expensive to keep upgrading the transmission speeds for better video
performance. "We're batching out PCs real quick," Ferrel said.

 Low-cost desktop videoconferencing equipment provides low-quality images with static
cameras. High-end systems deliver better quality but are expensive to buy and use, and
they must be linked to PCs if the users want to collaborate on documents.

 "Videoconferencing has penetrated pretty well into most agencies at high
levels," said Michael N. Raymond, federal regional sales director for Compression
Labs. "It's becoming affordable enough for a lot of agencies to expand it to field

 The Lunar turnkey system comes in configurations supporting transmission speeds of
56 kilobits/sec to 768 kilobits/sec. The 384-kilobit/sec model bought by TIMPO, which
Raymond expects to be the most popular, sells for $18,950. A 128-kilobit/sec model is

 Lunar consists of a 133-MHz Pentium PC with 16M to 32M of memory,
Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, 29-inch SVGA monitor, remote
microphone and camera controllable from either end for pan, tilt and zoom.

 A user controls operations from a wireless keyboard with a trackball. The keyboard
has a range of 40 feet, and several keyboards can be used with a single Lunar computer and

 Compression Labs' ConferenceWare software lets users share documents and Windows
applications. Lunar complies with the T.120 international standard for document sharing
and the H.320 videoconferencing standard, so it should work with compatible conferencing

 There are limitations, however. Although the monitor provides good resolution for
computer graphics, video is limited to 15 frames/sec, about half the rate of broadcast
television. But at transmission speeds of 384 kilobits/sec and above, the resolution and
motion-handling functions of the video compression software make near-broadcast quality
possible, company officials said.

 Because of the trade-off between video quality and the cost of bandwidth, Raymond
considers the midrange 384-kilobit/sec configuration "the sweet spot."

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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