InFocus, which is best known for its digital projectors, has created a 55-inch, high-definition display with touch-screen controls, a camera and audio system for videoconferences, and an on-board computer running Windows 7.
"We're calling it a giant tablet," InFocus Director of Marketing Scott Niesen said in an interview prior to Wednesday's announcement. While the comparison may be a little odd for a wall-sized device, the idea is to bring the touch-screen simplicity of a tablet to tasks like managing videoconferences that traditionally have been complex and expensive, he said. Small companies can't afford high-end videoconferencing equipment, while larger ones talk about the burden of "having to have a Captain Video on staff" to keep it working.
More than a monitor, think of the Mondopad as a computing appliance built around a large display. Instead of connecting your laptop to a projector, you can upload your PowerPoint to the Mondopad, or use the browser on the device to share websites or applications with your audience. By sliding open an on-screen control panel sidebar, a presenter can access drawing and annotation tools to markup a presentation or use the device as a virtual whiteboard. With an integrated wireless access point, the Mondopad can also be controlled from a laptop or except file uploads wirelessly.
The computer, known as the Mondopad collaboration server, displays a customized desktop by default, but it is capable of running any Windows 7 software and can be managed like any other PC in terms of software patches and security, Niesen said. "A lot of customers we're working with want to run their own apps on the system as well."
When used with the cloud-based videoconferencing service Vidtel, the Mondopad can be used to place video calls to users of enterprise conferencing systems from Cisco or Polycom, as well as Internet video services like Skype and Google Chat. The 720-pixel high-definition camera works with a "soundbar" on the top of the screen, which has been designed to eliminate background noise and pick up voices.
"We've been working on this for a long time," Niesen said. "We've talked to nearly 300 people in different customer groups, from large enterprises to SMBs and education customers" to define the kind of product they would find useful, he said.
Early customers who have expressed an interest include an insurance company that wants to use videoconferencing to cut down on the time and expense of travel between offices in Houston and New Orleans, Niesen said. Another is a high-end chain of restaurants that wants to make the Mondopad available as part of a high-end conference room setup for business customers, as well as for its own planning meetings, he said.
The Mondopad has a list price of $5,949, and videoconference services will start at less than $49 per connection per month. Organizations that have a videoconferencing standard and do not want to use the Vidtel service have the option to load other videoconferencing client software onto the Mondopad.
Niesen expects the Vidtel service to be particularly useful to small businesses such as consulting firms who want the ability to videoconference with their clients, regardless of what videoconference standard the client has adopted.
Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)