Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace

Pablo Valerio, International Business & IT Consultant | 1/19/2011 | 41 comments

Pablo Valerio
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.

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rickyaliasgar   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/11/2013 7:01:20 AM
Web conferencing
Great Article. Certainly, use of desktop conferencing tools such as WebEx, gomeetnow, gotomeeting etc. or even deploying on premise desktop conferencing appliance such as RHUB appliances is transforming the way in which companies conduct businesses. More and more organizations, companies, colleges etc. are adopting desktop conferencing technology on order to increase business efficiency, more client interaction, reduce travel costs etc.

Broadway   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   2/4/2011 8:07:45 AM
Re: is there just not enough demand?
I'd be curious to hear anyone's thoughts on ooVoo. I only recently tried it in a five-way video conference. It seemed to function all right, though I wasn't entirely impressed. It seemed a little too unpolished for business use.
Pablo Valerio   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/31/2011 12:25:29 PM
Re: is there just not enough demand?

Yes, it is a good quality. Many news organizations are now using Skype video instead of bulky and expensive satellite systems to broadcast news from all over the world.

The recent issues of Internet reliability in places like North Africa are creating many problems to use the technology, but some news sites, like the BBC, are now broadcasting using 3G mobile access and Skype. That makes the teams very mobile and they can go live anywhere, anytime.
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Cyrus   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/26/2011 3:20:35 PM
Re: is there just not enough demand?
@Pablo While I'm sure most of Skype's minutes are voice only, I've been very happy with the quality of video "chats" via Skype. If you've got a decent broadband connection, it's pretty darn good.
Pablo Valerio   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/26/2011 11:10:31 AM
Re: is there just not enough demand?

You're right, and I believe Skype was a revolution in voice calling, especially in Europe.

The system worked so well at the time of Dial-Up connections than phone companies in Europe started to offer free long-distance with internet bundles, to avoid people using Skype.

Most of my international contacts use Skype for voice, video and basic IM. I can't imagine to communicate with them without it.
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Cyrus   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/25/2011 5:10:38 PM
Re: is there just not enough demand?
@identity This has definitely historically been an issue, but already you're seeing where tools like Skype really make this effortless, painless and generally reliable. I regularly do Skype-based video chats with others in the U.S., as well as abroad, and it's generally ready for prime time, provided that you've got a decent broadband connection.

The issue with a decentralized server or peer-to-peer based network like Skype will occasionally be reliability and uptime. Of course, you can overcome that with an enterprise solution, but for most a situation like Skype can work surprisingly well.
DBK   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/21/2011 1:04:18 PM
Re: Skype Group Desktop Video Innovation for Acquisition?

Chaim - To be honest I have only take a very cursory look at the new Skype Group application and I need to dig a little deeper.  But I believe you are spot on when you say it opens up a whole world of possibilities.  In my opinion the lack of a multisite engagement was what held it back.  But with that feature now enabled it is a game changer.  Another keys for their success is the ability to do SIP and the integration of  their applications with other communications providers.  Time will tell but right know it looks good for Skype, wonder who will be buying them up?

Pablo Valerio   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/21/2011 12:22:57 PM
Re: is there just not enough demand?

I believe you if you are trying to setup a system every time. That's why --in a previous post-- I said it is necessary to have dedicated systems connected all the time.

Desktop video is different. If you use a common presence system (Skype, Lynx, FaceTime) and everyone is online, then it is easier.

@Sara..David... Curtis, If you have Skype accounts I'd like to do a quick video conference some time next week, and I'd like others to join, maybe they can email you their Skype id to keep it private. We could use the Skype group video or ViVu's VuRoom.
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identity   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/21/2011 11:50:30 AM
Re: is there just not enough demand?
@Sara our office tried to do video conferencing too between Boston, Chicago, Ohio, and D.C. and found we spent more time trying to get everyone online, get it configured properly, and set up the equipment, than we did actually having the meeting. 

In the end seeing their faces really wasn't worth all of the trouble. 
chaimhaas   Desktop Video Conference Tools Are Transforming the Workplace   1/21/2011 11:45:05 AM
Re: Desktop Video Secuirty Personal & Enterprise links

No argument there.

Have you looked at Skype's new Group Video Calling feature? It will allow for up to 10 parties to participate and only one participant (not necessarily the host) needs to be a subscriber to the Skype Premium feature. Plus, you can call PC-to-PC, PC-Mac, Mac-PC, etc.

And you can even have folks using Skype on their iPhones listening in via audio. Interoperability with Skype video calling on mobile devices and TVs from Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Samsung and Vizio that run Skype will also be coming soon :)

This is certainly a lot more cost efficient and multi-platform than existing room-based telepresence systems.

Lots of new, fresh possibilities :)

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