Last week I had the unique opportunity to talk with two of the leaders in desktop video conferencing: Skype and ViVu.
First David Gurlé, vice president of Skype Enterprise, gave me a quick overview of the new Group Video Calling for businesses that Skype is promoting now. Video calling represented about 40 percent of all Skype-to-Skype minutes in 2010.
We had a three-way conference with Chaim Haas from Kaplow, the press agency handling Skype in the US. The video quality was excellent, and I could see them clearly, despite my slow Internet connection. The system uses dedicated servers to balance the bandwidth among the users, so the individual Internet connections are not reducing the overall quality of the system.
Skype charges a monthly fee for the service, but only the host participant needs to be subscribed to it; the others only need a Skype account. Currently the service only supports desktop users, but Skype plans to add support for mobile phones soon. Additional features such as online presentations, recording, and moderation are going to be introduced during the year. Skype video quality is excellent, and it's offering a bundle of a HQ Webcam and conference room speaker-phone to pair with the service.
Later I had the opportunity to catch up with Jon Lunetta, director of sales at ViVu. ViVu has been very active in the last few months, introducing several products to complement its corporate video system.
ViVu's VuRoom makes use of Skype as the presence provider to handle the voice communication, taking advantage of Skype's excellent audio codecs. However its group video features are proprietary to its systems. ViVu's adaptive bandwidth technology allows the system to adjust video quality to ensure the best user experience for the speed of the Internet connections. Of course, audio is given the highest priority.
The main advantages of ViVu (using the Skype interface) are the additional features -- such as online presentations, conference recording, screen sharing, etc. They can also interface with H.323 systems like Polycom and LifeSize.
The latest is support for the Microsoft Lync's Conference System: VuRoom for Lync allows up to eight attendees to take part in video conferencing and view all participants in the conference.
I was looking forward to talking with Polycom, as the leader in high-end corporate video conferencing for many years. Unfortunately I was unable to locate the right people. My impression is that Polycom is focusing more on conference room audio devices, and not interested in getting into a desktop video conferencing solution with low margin. Its installed base of high-end video conference products is still an industry standard, but the new wave of desktop and small conference room tools are too competitive for Polycom.
I believe this year video conferencing will be deployed as a standard feature on most desktops. Anybody in a sales, marketing, product management, or customer service position will start using more video to communicate. The products are there, and prices are as low as they can get.