Microsoft gets chatty with new Webcams

Microsoft is announcing two videoconferencing Webcams that simplify online video chat.

Microsoft is expected to announce this week two videoconferencing Webcams that simplify online video chat and can create photo blog entries on Microsoft's MSN Spaces community site.

The LifeCam VX-6000 and LifeCam VX-3000 Webcams initiate videoconferencing sessions in Windows Live Messenger instant messaging software with the press of a button, said Michael Cowan, a product marketing manager at Microsoft.

A Windows Live Call Button atop the Webcams automatically logs a user into Windows Live Messenger and opens a list of contacts currently online, called a "Buddy Pick" list. Clicking on a contact from the list starts a videoconference, Cowan said. "It is like speed dial. Just press a button."

Initiating a videoconference with existing tools can be difficult and confusing as it involves numerous mouse clicks, Cowan said.

The Webcams come bundled with LifeCam Dashboard software, which lets the user zoom, tilt and pan the Webcam. An optional software service called "One-Touch Blogging" automatically publishes pictures free to the user's blog on Microsoft's MSN Spaces. After the LifeCam snaps a picture, the software automatically logs a user in to MSN Spaces and posts the picture as a new blog entry, Cowan said. Users can add text to the photo blog entry before publishing it.

Both Webcams have integrated microphones with a noise-cancellation feature, Cowan said. When a user speaks into the microphone, the Webcam creates a sound funnel that automatically cuts down on echo and room noise, Cowan said.

The US$99.95 LifeCam VX-6000 is aimed at tech-savvy users looking for a feature-rich Webcam that offers robust performance, Cowan said. The round Webcam has a 71-degree wide-angle lens and shoots video at a 1280-by-1024 pixel resolution.

The US$49.95 LifeCam VX-3000 shoots video at 640-by-480-pixel resolution and is designed for budget-conscious buyers. It doesn't have a wide-angle lens.

Though optimized for Windows Live services, the LifeCams work with other instant messaging software as a regular Webcam. They are not compatible with Mac OS or Linux.

Videoconferencing has gained prominence in recent years because of increased broadband adoption. That has led to an increased demand for quality Webcams, Cowan said. "[Fat] pipes enable better video calls than dial-up modems," he said.

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