Aastra today launched Aastra BluStar, a video conferencing solution for the desktop. The BluStar 8000i desktop media phone includes true HD video conferencing quality with unified communications and business applications along with collaboration. It includes a 13-inch touch screen that achieves true HD 720p video conferencing at a rate of 30 frames per second. It also includes excellent HD sound quality, powered by four voice tracking microphones and three speakers.
This desktop media phone includes both peer to peer communication or for up to 100 participant video conferencing. According to Aastra, "At the touch of a button, and without the need to book meeting rooms, teams can gather together to share documents and review and discuss project developments for improved productivity and reactivity. Sharing content from a desktop PC to the Aastra. BluStar 8000i is easy, and the Bluetooth interface facilitates the simple transfer of data from mobile phones and Bluetooth enabled devices."
It certainly is a very large phone for a desktop when you include the screen footprint. Desktop phones have several niches - small phones with small LCD (1-line) screens, medium phones with multi-line LCD or color displays, and now this larger phone which appears to carve out a new niche in the desktop IP phone arena. Though an argument could be made that this media phone is comparable to the Polycom VVX 1500, which also sports a fairly large screen (7"), though not quite as large as the BluStar (13"). In fact, BluStar is nearly double the size. You might make the analogy between an iPhone and the iPad when comparing these two media phones. Yes, the BluStar and VVX 1500 are similar in feature-set, but the BluStar sports a larger screen. Analysts mocked the iPad as a glorified iPhone tablet that would fail and were proven wrong. There was a market for a super-sized iPhone. Does a market exist for a super-sized media phone on the desktop? It'll be interesting to see.
Aastra BluStar 8000i also includes built-in business productivity applications, which can run at the same time as the live video. Half of the display can be allocated to user defined applications to create a business dashboard. The product integrates Aastra’s unified communications applications as well as built-in applications from third parties. Examples: Solidus eCare for contact centers or CMG for contact managers, enabling BluStar 8000i to deliver information and business intelligence in real time.
Biometric fingerprint reading identifies users and makes hot desking simple and secure. Commands can be communicated via voice recognition and the product works in multiple regions, with country specific languages and tones.According to Simon Beebe, Vice President of Product Line Management at Aastra, “Video conferencing is becoming increasingly important in the enterprise environment. We combined the latest available technology with Aastra’s innovative R&D to deliver a new video collaboration solution that resets the quality and functionality standards available in today’s market. With the exceptional audio and visual quality of the Aastra BluStar 8000i, it really is like having the person or people you are communicating with in the same room as you – and that offers powerful benefits in terms of improved collaboration.”
“True to our commitments to leveraging open standards, we believe the Aastra BluStar 8000i is a leading product in its field, offering the highest possible quality and widest range of features in a desktop media phone. This new product from Aastra reinforces our position as a leading company at the forefront of Unified Communications and a key global player in the enterprise telephony market.”
The BluStar desktop media phone can easily be deployed on Aastra call managers as a SIP endpoint incorporating all call manager features, as well as two or three-way video conferencing. Alternatively, the BluStar 8000i media phones and BluStar Application Server can operate as a standalone product or can be used to complement an existing Aastra ViPr video conferencing system. Simon Beebe continues, “The Aastra BluStar 8000i is a video conference device, a desk phone, a collaboration device, an application platform and a natural collaboration tool. When combined with the BluStar application server, the product architecture eliminates the need for a costly MCU server and software, reducing costs and latency, making this an affordable and simple solution for improving communication for businesses of all sizes.”
Dominic Dodd, Principal Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, adds “BluStar is a great example of how Aastra is successfully leveraging the technologies it gains through acquisition and developing these further to meet the demand for desktop-based video collaboration, which is growing at over 17 per cent annually. With BluStar, Aastra has built on the ViPr platform to create a product that offers a fully integrated collaboration capability – combining voice, video and real-timing sharing of information – in a single package designed within a familiar user experience.”
I was told about the forthcoming Aastra BlueStar at ITEXPO several weeks ago but now that they've announced the product I have some follow-up questions for Aastra. If I get the answers to them I will update this post. Some of the questions I'm looking for answers to:
What are the video & audio codecs supported (H.264, G.722, etc.)?How’s the interoperability with other deskop videophones and telepresence systems? I vaguely recall being told (at ITEXPO) it’ll work as long as the 3rd party video device registers with the Aastra BluStar Application Server. Trying to grasp how this can fit into an enterprise with an existing Tandberg/Cisco system, a Polycom video endpoint, etc. I’ll take a quote from someone at Aastra if you feel that can best describe how the puzzle pieces fit together.