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INTEL ENTERS VIDEOCONFERENCING $8M CAMPAIGN BACKS PRODUCTS THAT LET PC USERS WORK WITH, SEE EACH OTHER

By Published on .

In its biggest product rollout ever, Intel Corp. is introducing a new family of videoconferencing tools for personal computers that let users work on the same document simultaneously, talk to each other and see each other.

Intel will spend $8 million advertising the products, dubbed ProShare, using the tagline "Bringing the power of the PC to one-to-one communications." Spending on the all-print campaign is second only to the long-running "Intel inside" effort.

For ad agencies, videoconferencing means agency and client could work simultaneously on copy, graphics or finished ads while talking to each other and seeing the other party in a video window on the computer screen.

Intel's campaign, from Dahlin Smith White, Salt Lake City, will break in the Feb. 21 issue of InfoWorld. Ads will also appear in The Wall Street Journal, PC Week, Windows Magazine, PC World, PC Magazine, InformationWeek and CommunicationsWeek.

Intel's basic software, allowing two people to work on the same document simultaneously, is available through retailers, priced at $99 for "impulse buys." Videoconferencing hardware, however, is only available through selected resellers, at a cost of $1,199 to $2,499.

"It's the first time that an Intel-branded product has been offered through restricted distribution channels, so the end customer has someone who can help them purchase, install and use the product," said Greg Lang, product marketing manager at Intel.

Intel is positioning the new line as products for convergence.

"Along with our many partners, we are facilitating the convergence of the communications and computer industries, turning the personal computer into a personal conferencing tool," CEO Andrew S. Grove said in a statement.

Intel's document-sharing software is designed to work over regular phone lines. Adding sound and video requires a digital telephone service called ISDN (integrated services digital network), which is coming into increasing use in the U.S.

Key Intel partners include the three Baby Bells that are farthest along in making ISDN available-Ameritech, Bell Atlantic and Pacific Bell-and the long-distance division of AT&T.

Intel also is partnering with several computer companies that will market products with Intel videoconferencing built in, and software companies that want their products to work with ProShare.

"We have put in place the architecture to make these capabilities ubiquitous on the PC," Mr. Lang said. "I believe personal videoconferencing is the next killer app for the PC."

As with other Intel initiatives to create new uses for PCs, this one is designed to boost demand for its microprocessors. Intel's videoconferencing family-it promises more than a dozen products this year-will run best on its latest chip, the Pentium.

Intel's entry into videoconferencing puts it in direct competition with some of the biggest names in communications and technology: AT&T, IBM Corp., Motorola, Texas Instrument, Fujitsu, NEC Corp. and Hitachi, among others. Analysts expect videoconferencing to grow to a $3.4 billion industry by 1997, up from $250 million today.

Also at issue are standards to let videoconferencing machines from different manufacturers talk to each other. AT&T's chips go into machines that comply with an international communications standard, but Intel's first products do not.

Intel, which says products due out later this year will use that standard, also is organizing an effort to write specifications for PC-based videoconferencing systems.

"At this point in time, there are two camps, but it may arguably be a temporary distinction," says Arnold Englander, product line director for AT&T's videoconferencing chips. "I don't see it as a clear or lasting opposition between Intel and AT&T."

But until common specifications are used throughout the industry, videoconferencing cannot become as easy as using phones or fax machines.

Still, Intel's entry, even without common standards, will boost videoconferencing.

Intel "could ship more videoconferencing systems [this year] than everyone else combined in the last 10 years," said analyst Rick Doeherty of the Envisioneering Group.

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