Videoconferencing in Focus
by Samuel Greengard
Ever since AT&T introduced the Picture Phone at the 1964 World's Fair, pundits have predicted that videoconferencing would be the Next Big Thing.
Unfortunately, every step toward communications nirvana has been met with a stumble into communications hell. Systems were expensive, clunky, and proprietary.
I recall the day in the late 1990s when a magazine I then wrote for asked me to install a high-end Intel videoconferencing system. A representative of Intel landed in my office and spent the greater part of two days getting all the gear up and working. Except it didn't work right.
Fortunately, he (unlike the rest of us) had access to the top brains at Intel, who spent a couple more days researching the problem and figured it out. Back to my office he came. Another few hours and we had the system flickering.
I emphasize flickering. I used it a grand total of three times. The picture quality was mediocre and the system, which required a separate computer card, drew too many resources and left Windows gasping. Worse, the person at the other end had to use the exact same system. Hmmm. On a practicality factor that rates about a Spinal Tap minus 11. And let's not even discuss cost.
Fast forward to 2010. At last, videoconferencing has come of age. IP networks and ubiquitous wireless hotspots have made connectivity and IT administration relatively simple. Client-based software on PCs makes point-to-point calls a snap, while hosted and managed services tackle more complex multi-user videoconferencing and telepresence requirements.
Unfortunately, a lot of organizations haven't fully tuned into this issue yet. Although employees are beginning to adopt videoconferencing on the desktop, using Skype or other services, few businesses have mapped out a strategic plan.
In a still-slow economy, where travel costs remain a concern, and in a world where a random Icelandic volcano can disrupt meeting schedules without warning, the value of video is clearer than ever. Capturing that value means fitting video into your overall communications strategy and business continuity plan.
You get the picture.