Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, October 7, 2002

One-to-one quality low-bandwidth videoconferencing

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Microsoft Portrait
= breakthrough tool
Software Tool (Win)

Microsoft Portrait is a research prototype for mobile video communication. It supports .NET Messenger Service, Session Initiation Protocol and Internet Locator Service on PCs, Pocket PCs and Handheld PCs. It runs on local area networks, dialup networks and even wireless networks with bandwidths as low as 9.6 kilobits/second. Microsoft Portrait delivers portrait-like video if users are in low bandwidths and displays full-colour video if users are in broadband. In low bandwidths, "portrait video" possesses clearer shape, smoother motion, shorter latency and much cheaper computational cost than do conventional video technologies. Microsoft Portrait provides presence notification, chat/voice/video functions almost anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Microsoft Portrait is a video communication program working at very low bit rates on the Internet. It runs on PCs and Pocket PCs in local area networks, dialup networks or even wireless networks with bandwidths as low as 9.6 kilobits per second. Microsoft Portrait delivers portrait-like black/white video which can work in so low bandwidth that full colour video can never work. The portrait video is so small that it can even be transmitted through an HTTP proxy as text. Microsoft Portrait provides basic audio/video talk and chat functions almost anytime anywhere on any device.

Microsoft Portrait Features allow you to make video communications with others using PCs, Pocket PCs or Handheld PCs through almost any network at any low bandwidth. Even if you are behind a firewall, you can still transmit audio/video through an HTTP proxy that most firewalls provide.

If you are unable to transmit video, you can still receive video calls.

With the Chat feature, you can chat with people. In addition, you can save the chat messages.

You can place a call either from the buddy list of Microsoft Portrait or from the Action menu of MSN Messenger after you install Microsoft Portrait.

You can also browse in an ILS server and select a people to call. In order to facilitate Microsoft Portrait users to find each other, we recommend to use ILS server: together.

Even if your buddy has not installed Microsoft Portrait, you can still invite him/her from the buddy list of Microsoft Portrait so that he/she can receive a message in an MSN Messenger window, which shows him/her you are inviting him/her and where to download Microsoft Portrait. After your buddy installs Microsoft Portrait, he/she can accept your call.

If you do not have a camera, you can still see others who do send video, or talk with others in robust voice working at bandwidth as low as 2.4 Kbps.

You can use any of your PCs, Pocket PCs or Handheld PCs to call. You can place a call even behind a firewall and if you are a modem dialup user, can also conveniently see and talk with others.

Please adjust the slide of the "Video" button to achieve better visual quality if you select to use black/white video.

Portrait video technology is especially suitable for small mobile devices such as handheld PCs, palm-size PCs and mobile phones that possess small display screens and light computational power, and work in wireless networks with limited bandwidths. Since 20-40 Kbps bandwidth is the bandwidth that 2.5G wireless networks such as GPRS and CDMA 1X can stably provide although the theoretical bandwidths of GPRS and CDMA 1X are up to 115 Kbps and 153.6 Kbps respectively, portrait video fits into this situation.

System Requirements:
Microsoft Portrait for PC is developed for Windows Operating Systems, which runs on Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000 and Windows XP and for Microsoft Pocket PC Operating System or above and Microsoft Handheld PC 2000 operating system.

Network Connections:
--TCP/IP (Winsock compliant)
--IP address (static or dynamic)
--9.6 Kbps (minimum) modem, LAN, Cable, or ISDN connection
--PPP for dial-up connection or
--Web proxy for Local Area Network

Computer Requirements:
--Pentium processor, 100 megahertz (MHz) minimum,
--32MB of RAM required, 64MB recommended,
--10 MB of hard disk space


--StrongARM SA11XX processor, or Hitachi SH3 processor, or MIPS R4XXX processor.
--1 MB of memory space

If you want to select Mobile Voice audio codec (2.4 Kbps) to communicate with a Pocket PC user or another PC user, please first download and install Microsoft ActiveSync 3.5 from

Microsoft ActiveSync 3.5 will install a Mobile Voice audio codec into your PC.

Please refer to Microsoft Portrait web site at:
Its online readme file may contain the latest updates.

A nice and well organized support manual is accessible online at: guide.asp

A very rich FAQ page is also accessible at: qna.aspx

* All of the above information was extracted from the Microsoft Research web site on August 2002 at:

Read what others have had to say about this incredible tool: reviews.aspx

Download a free copy of Microsoft Portrait at:

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posted by Robin Good on Monday, October 7 2002, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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