In this article, Ron Lindeboom looks at the powerful HP Skyroom technology, which allows team members to interact in high definition video with one another, as they work on projects and approvals remotely. Highly powerful, yet priced within reach of many small to medium-sized companies -- nevertheless, the system is powerful enough for even major players like Dreamworks Animation, who used the system during the making of the blockbuster 'Monsters vs Aliens.' Powerful, elegant, simple to use.
Four COWs out of five. Why not five? In a day when many studios use Windows, Linux and Macs to solve varying production issues, the tool is Windows-only. Not a serious issue to many, but enough to keep it from a perfect five. But if you use Windows predominantly or can limit your remote previewing to Windows systems only, it doesn't get any better.
To run HP SkyRoom on any vendor PC, minimum requirements are Intel® Core 2™ Duo
2.33-GHz or equivalent processor with 2 GB RAM, a webcam and Microsoft
Windows® XP or Vista®. Minimum network requirement is a broadband network with a
minimum transfer rate of 400kb/second. HP SkyRoom must run over a corporate VPN to
connect to systems outside the local firewall.
Looking for a powerful solution that allows people in different locations to network together and see each other's desktops and files, watching previews and giving approvals across remote locations? Over the years, many freeware and shareware tools have come along to help users interact remotely. Arguably, in recent years, two of the most-marketed technologies of this kind are Microsoft Live Office and Apple iChat.
Well, let's just come out and say it right here: Live Office and iChat aren't Skyroom. Skyroom is Live Office and iChat on steroids after working in the gym with trainers. It also isn't one of the many freeware or shareware applications or subscription-based services like GoToMeeting.com.
Windows users will find in Skyroom that the HP Labs team -- that developed much of this technology in support of NASA's Mars Rover program, a program that required high resolution transfer technology -- has created a new level of high definition user experience. From such developmental beginnings, Skyroom knows how to extract every ounce of power to bring new levels of interactivity and workgroup and desktop sharing to its users.
HP itself likes to say that with Skyroom, they have introduced "a new category in videoconferencing with the introduction of HP SkyRoom - affordable, high-definition videoconferencing software that offers live, real-time collaboration for instant face-toface meetings with no subscription fees." But to really understand Skyroom, you have to see it in action, such as Kathlyn and I, along with Creative COW's David Roth Weiss, witnessed when we were guests of HP, Dreamworks Animation and BMW Designworks just prior to the roll-out of Dreamworks Animation's blockbuster film, "Monsters vs Aliens" -- a film whose production, in part, featured the assistance of HP Skyroom to allow team members to more easily interact with one another.
While HP concentrated on the powerful core technological aspects, I have my sneaking suspicions that Dreamworks Animation members no doubt gave their usual list of user demands to insure its ease-of-use, since they used it, in part, during the making of "Monsters vs Aliens." It is a smooth interface and one which clearly has a simplicity and elegance that usually only comes from systems that have been banged on in the workaday world by power users.
During the technology preview that we saw at BMW Designworks, all three of us from Creative COW that were in attendance at the event were quite impressed as we watched remote users in disparate locations interact in high definition video -- and not the usual pixelating variety of bigger than a postage stamp video that often accompanies technologies like these.
The demo was doubly impressive to me as I have one of the original v1.0 boxes of Timbuktu which in the mid-80s began the sharing-of-desktops-and-drives march, so I have a special vantage point of reference when I look at a technology that is as impressive as this.
HP's Skyroom supports up to four users simultaneously in high definition, over a standard business network.
And unlike many of the high-ticket enterprise solution that come from dedicated backbone IT infrastructures that include bandwidth and subscription fees, the price of Skyroom is just $149 with no subscription fees. And buyers of new HP Workstations will find it preinstalled and fully functional, at no cost. A free trial version is also available for systems that meet the minimum requirements needed to support the system. (See the beginning of the article.)
According to advanced reports from HP, HP SkyRoom is available worldwide preinstalled at no cost on the HP Z800, Z600, Z400 and xw4600 workstations. Select premium business PCs and notebooks due out from HP in the coming months will include a 90-day trial of HP SkyRoom, which will be available for purchase thereafter. Customers using current HP workstations, desktops, notebooks or non-HP systems can purchase HP SkyRoom for $149 at www.hp.com/go/hpskyroom
The performance-to-price ratio of HP Skyroom sets a new highwater mark in workgroup desktop sharing, and job previews and approvals. In the past, users either settled for incredibly expensive enterprise systems to support team interactivity from remote locations, or they settled for inexpensive low-powered and simply featured systems that allowed for little real interactivty or quality of the preview image.
HP Skyroom ha a level of desktop sharing and rich media serving that is unparalled in its class and HP should do quite well with this new addition to the HP line-up. Watching it in action on a massive big screen showed the quality of the image -- and it was one that makes other systems that I have seen, look quite pale by comparison.
HP's JIM ZAFRANA, VP/GM OF WORKSTATIONS TALKS ABOUT SKYROOM:
"Finally, video meetings with genuine eye contact and natural human interaction are as easy as starting an instant messaging connection. 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.
"Whether you are working with office documents, streaming video or interactive
3-D applications, the system allows participants to collaborate on sophisticated design concepts, allowing tremendous flexibility and performance for sharing content and visually rich human conversations. Production houses can preview animation clips to dispersed teams for live, instant feedback. Financial teams spread across the world can run live models for discussion and
Tim Wilson has dug down into the technology behind Skyroom, so to learn more, please read his article online here.
If you would like to read the official press news about HP Skyroom, you will find it in Creative COW's News section.
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