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ClearOne Acquires VCON for a Powerful Combination of Audio and Video Expertise

January 30, 2012 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
clearone_vcon_acquisition.jpgClearOne, a leading global provider of top tier audio conferencing equipment and related communications technologies, has acquired VCON, long time innovator of videoconferencing technology.
Telepresence Options recently had the opportunity to discuss this acquisition with Zeynep (Zee) Hakimoglu. Ms. Hakimoglu has been CEO and President of ClearOne since 2004 and was excited to describe ClearOne's plans to provide premiere, full collaboration endpoints, from the desktop to the boardroom. ClearOne has a strong pedigree for conferencing technology, having created a number of products including the world's first wireless conference phone, and boasting worldwide leadership in professional audio conferencing solutions. ClearOne's audio developments also include a recently announced new line of enterprise headsets, and the new Chat150 USB Speakerphones.
ClearOne's Chat150 USB Speakerphone

Followers of videoconferencing history are well aware of the long standing interweaving of audio and video technologies and companies. It is not unprecedented for an audio-centric company to move forward and find great success in videoconferencing (remember, Polycom's first products were audio speakerphones). This phenomena isn't unexpected, due to the importance of great audio in videoconferencing.  After all, if the video quality is unacceptable, you can continue the meeting with audio, but without good audio, your meeting simply fails.

ClearOne has been hinting towards an interest in video for some time. Last February, they introduced the Collaborate solution, which is a voice, video, and data console designed for executive office or conferencing room use.  The Collaborate (pictured at top) includes one or two 46" LCD monitors, an HD video camera, a built in quad core PC running Windows 7, as well as ClearOne's renowned microphones, speakers, and HDConference audio system.  Click Here for Collaborate Data Sheet

ClearOne's Collaborate is ideal for organizations with access to professional video or UC clients, as well as organizations that choose to use free commercial clients. However, without an integrated business class videoconferencing codec it wasn't able to fulfill all of ClearOne's product goals. This is where VCON steps in to complete the picture.
VCON's xPoint Executive Videoconferencing System

ClearOne Emblaze VCON Brochure

While VCON never found a way to compete on even footing with the big players in videoconferencing, their products have been well liked by critics. Keep in mind; this is the company that invented the first IP-only desktop VC system in 1997, when the rest of the industry was apparently satisfied with ISDN. These guys know videoconferencing. Currently, VCON is one of the few videoconferencing vendors to support the advanced H.264 High Profile protocol which can reduce the bandwidth requirements for high resolution calls.

During my time at Wainhouse Research we had VCON endpoints and MCUs in the lab which kept pace with pricier products built by competitors with vastly superior R&D budgets. It was only a matter of time until someone with the strength and channel of ClearOne would snap up VCON and leverage their technology to its full potential. For a reported cost of $4.5 million in cash, ClearOne has purchased more than a videoconferencing product line, it has a team of historic VC innovators.

Ms. Hakimoglu states, "We really started this search looking for a soft codec for our Collaborate solution. As we did more and more searching and evaluation VCON kept coming to the top as the best solution on all fronts. We were considering a strategy to bring on video and now we are at the right place at the right time because we have a best-in-breed software codec and this is a great time for adoption."

The bottom line is that with the currently massive growth in demand for videoconferencing, this move is an obvious one for ClearOne.  If ClearOne is able to leverage VCON's technology to produce videoconferencing endpoints with the quality and reliability of their existing audio offerings, they should be able to etch out a nice niche in this expanding marketplace.

About the Author
David_Maldow_with_text.jpgDavid Maldow is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate editor at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration technologies. David is focused on providing third-party independent testing of telepresence and visual collaboration endpoints and infrastructure and helps end users better secure their telepresence, videoconferencing, and visual collaboration environments.

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