PictureTel Corp.

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PictureTel Corporation, often shortened to PictureTel Corp., was one of the first commercial videoconferencing product companies. It achieved peak revenues of over $400 million in 1996 and 1997 and was eventually acquired by Polycom [1] in October 2001.


PictureTel was founded in August 1984 as PicTel by MIT students Brian L Hinman and Jeffrey G. Bernstein and MIT Professor David H. Staelin. The team was also assisted initially by MIT Professor Michael Dertouzos and two of his grad students Greg Papadopoulos and Richard Soley.

While at MIT Hinman and Bernstein were motivated by the video compression work by UC Davis Professor Anil K. Jain (1946–1988) and his colleague Jaswani R. Jain who published an important research paper[2] combining block-based motion compensation and transform coding in December 1981. The result was PictureTel, creating one of the first real-time systems[3] to implement motion compensation and transform coding in July 1986.

Subsequently, most of the video compression standards for two-way communications and video broadcast applications have been based upon motion compensation and transform coding, including those most widely used today such as H.264/MPEG-4 AVC.

PictureTel was funded by an Initial Public Offering in November 1984, becoming a public company on virtually its first day of business. Product development started at this point. While the company demonstrated its first product in 1986, the company did not have meaningful product sales until 1987.

In October 2001, PictureTel was purchased by Polycom, a company that was co-founded in 1990 by Brian Hinman and another early PictureTel employee, Jeffrey Rodman. Hinman and Bernstein would later be instrumental in creating 2Wire.[4]


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