Breaking The Multimedia Logjam

Multimedia is all the rage in computing these days, but there's a problem: Most office networks don't have the capacity to move much video traffic alongside other streams of data. On an overloaded network, video images appear jerky and entire strings of speech get lost. One answer is asynchronous transfer mode, or ATM, which can boost a network's capacity a hundredfold or more. But in most forms, ATM generally requires costly switching gear--upwards of $1,600 per desktop.

In late September, Santa Clara (Calif.) startup First Virtual Corp. will unveil low-cost ATM gear that may change all that. Based on products from Advanced Telecommunications Modules Ltd., a British-based spin-off of Olivetti, First Virtual plans to bring a form of ATM to the desktop for as little as $500 per seat. First Virtual's founders include several people from a pioneering networking company, Ungermann-Bass Inc.--including Ralph Ungermann, who is CEO.

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