Microsoft Introduces Branded Webcams

Microsoft on Tuesday took a page from the Apple playbook by releasing its own line of webcams, a joint effort of the Windows Live and Microsoft Hardware teams. The company says the new cams would dramatically simplify the video communications experience.

Two models will initially be released, the LifeCam VX-3000 and VX-6000, and are optimized for use with the Windows Live Messenger application. A feature called the Windows Live Call button on each model would allow for one-touch access to a buddy list tool that shows online friends.

A dashboard application has been built into Windows Live Messenger that would allow the user to control camera features such as pan, tilt and zoom without having to take attention away from the conversation. Additional features allow for easy video blogging with Windows Live Spaces.

The LifeCams are part of a new initiative by the Redmond company that includes hardware products that tie into and enhance Windows Live services.

"Microsoft Hardware and Windows Live are defining that movement with a new approach to integrated products and services that give consumers the power to have a richer digital communications experience and make everyday events extraordinary," Microsoft consumer productivity experiences executive vice president Tom Gibbons said.

The VX-3000 features a 1.3-megapixel camera for high-definition still photography, and the capability for 640x480 video. The VX-6000 is Microsoft's top of the line model, featuring 5.0-megapixel, high-definition video at 1.3 megapixels, and 3x digital zoom. Additionally, a wide angle lens would permit up to three people to fit in the frame.

Both models will feature noise-cancellation features and video effects, such as falling snowflakes or twinkling stars. Additionally, a base is provided for easy attachment to any size monitor.

While the first two cameras would be available in August, Microsoft said it plans to have additional models available in September. The VX-3000 will be priced at $49.95 USD, while the high-end VX-6000 will retail for $99.95 USD. Pre-orders are available from Amazon.com, Microsoft said.

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