The way Logitech sees it, setting up a video-conferencing system for your office shouldn't be a choice between a high-end system that costs thousands of dollars and a laptop's built-in camera that everyone crowds around. The latest version of the company's conference-camera product, the $999 Logitech Group, combines an HD video camera and full-duplex speakerphone.
Slated for an early March release, Logitech Group is designed for conferences containing up to 14 people. Add a $300 set of optional expansion microphones to the setup, and you can fit 20 people in on a conference.
Those participating in a video conference will be staring at a 1080p camera with a 90-degree field of view and pan-and-tilt controls. On-board H.264 with scalable video coding aims to provide a smoother video stream, according to Logitech. The camera connects to an existing Mac or PC via USB, which should simplify installation.
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Logitech focuses on the hardware. In terms of software, Logitech Group works with video-conferencing tools your office is likely to already be using. Logitech says its latest conference camera works with Microsoft Lync, Skype, Jabber, WebEx and BlueJeans.
"We're trying to create a simple product that competes with higher-end options," said Scott Wharton, Logitech vice president and general manager for video collaboration.
Logitech Group replaces Logitech's previous conference-camera offering, the lyrically named CC3000e. This version promises audio improvements with four omnidirectional microphones instead of just one. The microphones use beamforming and noise-canceling technology for clearer conversations. That expansion microphone option is also new, increasing the range of the speakerphone to a 28-foot diameter from 20 feet.
I briefly got a chance to see the Logitech Group in action. Video looked clean and crisp, even when the camera zoomed in on something in the meeting room. I think offices will be just as impressed with the simple setup process, which is a matter of plugging in the camera and phone rather than going through an elaborate installation routine.
"You don't need an IT department," Wharton said of the setup process.