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Industry Imperatives
March 2001

"Lights, Camera, Conference!"

BY SALLY STANTON

If the word "videoconferencing" make you think of Mr. Spacely yelling "JETSON, YOU�RE FIRED!" into his videophone, or maybe Dick Tracy talking to headquarters through his wristwatch, then it�s time to update your thinking, because videoconferencing is hot. In fact, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association�s (TIA) 2001 MultiMedia Telecommunications Market Review and Forecast, spending on the overall videoconferencing market (equipment and services) will nearly double by 2004, rising from $7.8 billion in 2000 to $15.3 billion.

Why the boom? First, videoconferencing equipment is less expensive than ever before. Second, product quality has improved, especially at the lower end of the market. Factor in the falling cost and rising availability of high-speed data lines (essential for streaming video over the Internet), and it�s easy to see why consumers are finally ready to embrace videoconferencing technology. All of this is supported by data from the 2001 Market Review and Forecast, which predicts steady, double-digit growth for the videoconferencing equipment market -- rising at a 21 percent compound annual growth rate to reach $3.3 billion in 2004.

In its simplest form, videoconferencing requires only a video camera, software, and hardware to facilitate a connection, and the equipment to compress and decompress video and audio signals. The rapid developments in technology, coupled with the decline in the cost of equipment, have shifted the direction of videoconferencing to the personal computer and to desktop videoconferencing. Well-suited to one person on a screen at a time usage, desktop videoconferencing is composed of computer, video, and telephony technologies that allow people in separate locations to work interactively. The price to implement this technology ranges from $2,000�$7,000, depending on features and capabilities. Fairly easy to install and use, it is relatively inexpensive to implement when compared to room-based systems that can cost anywhere from $15K�$30K for entry level systems, and go up from there depending on facilities and needs.

To take videoconferencing a step further, the evolution of telecommunications networks from circuit-switched technology to packet-switched technology has also had a significant impact on the videoconferencing industry market. And as IP-based networks and IP multimedia technology develop, many users will choose the available alternatives to the more expensive ISDN connection altogether by moving to technologies that route voice, data, and video over IP networks. In addition, the growth in the market is aided by the continuing emergence of international industry standards designed to allow the interoperability of systems manufactured by different vendors.

The proliferation of new products and standards-based systems is creating numerous opportunities for value-added resellers. Now that companies have far more choices at their disposal than in the past, and at rates that are more affordable, choosing the right solution is more complicated. Companies are looking to VARs to provide customized solutions that meet their individual requirements and to implement those solutions in the enterprise.

All Systems Go
Whatever your customers� videoconferencing needs, whether desktop or IP-based, there are a number of solutions available to fit the requirements.

  • The Polycom ViewStation FX supports the H.263+ standard and works with public and private PRI, V.35, and Ethernet networks. Its MultiPoint Conferencing Unit connects to as many as four sites in full-motion 30-fps video. Users can make H.320 or H.323 calls through the system�s peripheral link and embedded 10/100 hub.
  • PictureTel�s H.320- and H.323-compatible Intel TeamStation System 5.0 offers 30-fps video over ISDN- and IP-based networks. The TeamStation runs on Microsoft Windows NT, so your customers can access, share, and collaborate on Windows applications. Plus, remote management and administration is easy with the optional Intel TeamStation System Manager.
  • VTEL introduced Galaxy MiniTower, a PC-based videoconferencing solution that utilizes H.323 IP Vtouch software. In January 2000, VTEL announced the formation of Onscreen 24, a business unit focusing exclusively on delivering high-impact, visual communications products and services for the Web.
  • 3M Company has four existing systems within the 3M VCS3000 product line that possess the ability to be integrated into an existing information technology infrastructure.
  • Latitude Communications offers MeetingPlace, a
    system designed to allow collaboration on materials and documents in real-time meetings among workers and clients. This system is a shared resource that allows all employees to arrange conference calls and meetings from any location using a touch-tone phone or Web browser to collaborate on materials in real-time, discuss
  • LANscape, developed by VC, is an IP-based video communications device with seven multimedia applications laced into one. It integrates videoconferencing, videobroadcast, and video-on-demand to the desktop, all in one application.
  • The Sony TriniCom 5100 Quartet, which offers a four-site, built-in, multipoint capability that allows the user to save money by not having to deploy any external bridging service in order to execute a multipoint conference.

All of these changes come just in time so that you may help your customers cope with the increasing globalization of business. Ten years ago, it might have been acceptable for a company to operate only within its geographic area, but today, the competitive nature of the economy requires organizations to innovate their systems in order to find methods to communicate quickly and cost-effectively with partners worldwide. Videoconferencing fills that need by allowing people to meet face to face -- without wasting time and money on travel. The options now available to small-to-mid-size companies have opened up a new realm of opportunities that increase productivity without significantly compromising IT budgets.

Sally Stanton is vice president, general manager, Emerging Technologies Division, Ingram Micro U.S. Sally is also a board member of the Global Enterprise Market Development Council of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). TIA is a leading trade association serving the communications and information technology industry, with proven strengths in market development, trade shows, domestic and international advocacy, standards development, and e-commerce. Visit them at www.tiaonline.org.

[ Return To The March 2001 Table Of Contents ]



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