Andy Abramson pointed me to his post and another on the state of the video conferencing Industry this morning. What’s wrong with the Video Conferencing Industry? and his post “Taking Aim and Telling the Truth”. Fact is, I all but ignore the Video Conferencing Industry now. What I don’t do is ignore video and the impact it is having on people’s lives and communications. The Video Communications Industry was companies like Polycom and Cisco. They are looking a little like dinosaurs now. A few years ago we were also all talking telepresence. We can still wish for teleportation! These pioneering companies ended up with incredible expensive solutions that required rooms in different locations and more. Meanwhile I just kept Skyping my friends and colleagues. In that time it has become easier and easier to have a video call and Skype today makes a multiparty video conference pretty cheap. Video is more likely to be very distributed than 6 people in one office talking to 4 in another etc. Even the logistics of getting people there on time makes it a hassle.
Andy notes the impact of Tango and FaceTime. These are mobile solutions! If there is a power video user then I’d hold up Andy and his firm Comunicano as a good example. He notes multiple endpoints and knows the enterprise need. Yet I’d go further. The future of Video in all forms starts with the mobile device. Like the PC and Skype proved effective video conferencing mobile will drive the next generation solutions. The cost comparison I’d use versus Scott’s ruminations would be:
Three employees enter the room. 5 colleagues are in the field. All have iPhones (true now in an increasing number of companies). Our three colleagues sit at a table. You can now go with three or one phone for them… and the TV screen in the room which has some AirPlay+ features. It’s not going to be that hard to see screensharing, a presentation, the people in the room, etc and then all the colleagues in the field. Even in the field we will see projectors on phones closing the gap. The cost of this was some AirPlay device or it came preinstalled with the screen – the employees brought their gear and always have it with them. The big telecom companies can give up on big switch gear now. It really is in the software.
That’s perhaps part of Scott’s challenge in the future. Right now VidTel has a solution that works across the cloud and enables various different video services to connect. I’m not sure how optimized or HD that makes the interconnect. I suspect better quality exists on some one to one solutions. Still a key benefit of this solutions is the ease in which other enterprises can connect their video systems with each others and remote users. It’s not really for consumers. It gives everyone a little leverage of their video assets before they perhaps disappear or are really superseded by the mobile evolution. It may also make some users more happy in their companies as they can now use the device and hardware of their choice.
The biggest problems for mobile video are still social and a lack of bandwidth everywhere. If I’m a manager with a rep in the field and I want to see the example or help re talk them through a situation or make suggestions then video is just a natural extension. We see it in shopping, and I’ve been using it with research respondents. Video is going to save time and open up new conversations. The most important element of why the old models is dead is their static location. Mobile video may be more flawed; of a lower quality (although I’d hardly ever complain about that) that’s just part of it’s disruptive nature. The big benefit is… there is no setup cost. It potentially works at anytime and anywhere, in anyplace. iPhones and iPads make it particularly easy. I believe the majority of video conferencing minutes will soon be via mobile devices.
This type of discussion like many makes me wonder why our focus isn’t more on simplicity and simplification. As users carry more and more powerful devices in their pockets building or adding the same functionality to our environments (car, office, home) seems redundant. The office doesn’t need video conferencing. People do. The car doesn’t need a radio or music player – it does need great speakers. Does the car need a video? Perhaps not. It needs a dock for my phone and it can video everywhere I go and only save if I have an accident etc. Will that reduce my insurance cost? The revolution in video is now in mobile. From video social networks (socialcam), to recording apps and editing options. Even broadcast TV has been a mobile option for awhile.
Ask yourself. What mobile video conferencing system would you build today? And then ask, how you can make it functionally different? Video is just core basic functionality. I’d look to Camera+ for video and conferencing options perhaps. Video has a live feed component. Yet the point is… Create an API for usage like Camera+ and then video is integrated into other apps more quickly. Look at Viber or Tango. With an API on their app that functionality could be added to others. If you ever looked at Pair you will see the developers integrated FaceTime. That had zero cost to them. It’s more important how people use it and make it quickly available when required. Video today is just there. It’s not quite ubiquitous although it soon will be.