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Sony IVE (Instant Video Everywhere) is a new entrant to the VoIP marketplace and is a collaboration between Sony and Glowpoint. As the name implies, Sony IVE is a combination video and VoIP client that allows full video call functionality to other Sony IVE users. With a fee paying account it provides connectivity to traditonal ISDN video-conferencing systems or Plain Old Telephone Systems (POTS), but only in the US or Canada.
The Sony IVE client interface is sleek but disappointing. It consists of up to four windows locked together in position - one showing the remote video, one showing local video, another displaying a dial pad and a small window at the bottom which either displays contacts, call history or the list of recorded calls. It is frustrating not to be able to either alter the position of these windows relative to each other or to hide any that aren't in use. This is especially annoying if you only want to use the VoIP capabilities and don't have a webcam hooked up - one window permanently displays "No webcam detected". There are very few settings - just a tab to control audio levels, one to set startup options and one to adjust video. The contacts interface is a very basic form and unlike most other clients has no ability to pull contacts from any email clients to save work on typing them in.
Sony IVE includes no online help of any kind, and the support page on their website just links to a single PDF document which doesn't explain everything. Based on trial and error I was able to determine that despite advertising the use of SIP and H.323 in the client it is incapable of connecting directly to any SIP or H.323 clients - calls can only be made to other Sony IVE users or to their fee-paying services. And to make it more annoying, when you dial a wrong number (like a SIP address) a video mode starts with an American-accented woman telling you you've dialed a wrong number. If you press 1 during this video call a menu appears allowing access to a help video and options to connect to the operator, as long as you have a paid account. Of course, this feature isn't documented anywhere. Neither is pressing ESC to go to full-screen mode. In an extension of their unintuitive interface, right-clicking on the dial button before placing a call allows setting the call bandwidth, but using your contacts requires double-clicking the name which starts a call without being able to control the bandwidth. Right-clicking anything else at any time seems to do nothing. Frustrating isn't strong enough language to explain using this client.
One good feature is the AEC button on the dial-pad. This is acoustic echo cancellation - which means speakers can be used with the microphone without any feedback affecting the call quality, but of course most other clients can do this automatically. Sony IVE in this incarnation will only of use to people wanting to interact with ISDN conferencing systems in North America. Anyone wanting voice or video calls can use pretty much any other client and have a better experience.
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