Video phones not just for geeks

Many of us have used a combination of web cam and PC speaker for a “poor man’s” video phone. However, business class systems are available and coming down in price.
Cnet writes Avaya and camera maker Polycom will unveil on Monday an Internet videophone product for businesses, adding to a growing lineup of affordable, easy-to-use gear of a kind once possible only in newspaper comics.
Avaya will sell Polycom’s ViaVideo II video camera for PCs, packaged with an Avaya softphone. The combo is designed to let people make video or phone calls by dialing someone’s number from an IM-like window on a PC desktop. If the recipient’s setup is also video-enabled, the call goes through as video. If not, the call automatically switches to voice only.
At $429 for the phone and software, the Polycom-Avaya endeavor highlights the plummeting price of videophones, and how they’re becoming much easier to set up and use. Just a half decade ago, videoconferencing systems were $40,000, came with a 30-plus-inch screen that required an IT staffer to set up and operate, and used traditional phone networks. Nowadays, sub-$400 videophones, and unlimited video calling for $30 a month, is the norm, and the gear plugs into most laptops or routers.