At the risk of sounding antiquated, it doesn’t seem so long ago that a face-to-face business meeting involved one or both parties having to jump on an airplane. Teleconferencing helped a little but video conferencing certainly changed the way we do business - although the expense often meant that it was used sparingly. HP has just introduced new videoconferencing software that it claims is not only high-definition and offers live-real-time collaboration, it is also affordable and has no subscription fees.

HP SkyRoom users can share any type of application supported on their PC or workstation, including office documents, streaming video and interactive 3-D applications. To connect to a contact, users simply click their name and the live SkyRoom session begins. To share media or documents, the host simply clicks the relevant material.

The multi-way videoconferencing sessions allow remote users to view their host’s desktop and its applications, including displays of 2-D and 3-D graphics, full-motion video and multi-display on a system that only has a 2-D graphics card.

To reduce bandwidth and network traffic, the presenter’s software only monitors the changes on the screen, not the entire display. It compresses and encrypts the information before sending it to the participants, where it is decrypted, decompressed and updated.

“Finally, video meetings with genuine eye contact and natural human interaction are as easy as starting an instant messaging connection,” said Jim Zafarana, vice president and general manager, Workstations, HP. “It takes business productivity and collaboration to a completely new level when we can connect people around the world in a day via HP SkyRoom and let them get home to family dinner and bedtime stories – without the wear and tear of travel.”

HP expects that the software can be used for real-time collaboration for up to four people, over a standard business network for US$149 from HP (there is a small selection of videos on the SkyRoom website). Initially, HP SkyRoom will be free for a trial period on new HP business notebooks and PCs and will be included as a free standard feature on certain mobile workstations and desktops. The software will also be suitable for use on Dell, Lenovo or Sun workstations and PCs if they meet the minimum technology requirements.