I recently had a state-of-the-nation chat with Simon Dudley, video evangelist at LifeSize (News - Alert). We covered a lot of ground, with a key theme being the difficulty of businesses in seeing the value of video. With room-based systems, there is often a business case built around travel savings. Fair enough, but the appetite for six-figure immersive systems that create the as-if-you-were-there feeling is fading. The investment is just too high, and the quality of lower cost alternatives is proving to be good enough for most needs.
Overall adoption, however, isn’t where video players would like it to be. Whether you’re looking at standalone services or video applications integrated with a UC platform, the basic experience just isn’t user-friendly enough to be the mode of choice. The underlying technology really isn’t the problem – there are lots of workarounds to make video work on all manners of endpoints.
During our chat, Simon rightly noted that the real problem is that people –and businesses – don’t fully grasp the power of video. The same can be said for earlier technologies such as cell phones and broadband. These both may be considered oxygen today, but when they first emerged, nobody was really sure if there was lasting demand. Eventually, use cases were discovered that caused adoption to explode, but a few iterations were necessary along the way.
Remember when car-mounted cellular phones were seen as a major step forward? Both Simon and I are of the view that personal video is at a similar point in time. The technology is pretty good, but hasn’t quite yet become user-friendly or practical enough for mass adoption. To get there, you really need to know two things; why you would use a new technology as well as how.
The problem with personal video in a business environment is that both are lacking. For everyday, one-to-one communication, the why is generally pretty weak. When talking to co-workers, video adds little to what is normally done by phone. If you really need to make an impression with someone – such as your boss or a customer – you want a better quality experience, and for that, you’ll likely resort to the conference room for an HD video session.
The same can be said for the how of doing personal video. Most people think of video as being complex, expensive, and uneven in terms of the user experience. This is largely a legacy mindset, and one that gets stood on its head when you look at the current state of personal video. Whatever your perception is of the level of video user friendliness, it’s never been more accessible or affordable. At the same time, the workforce is generally getting younger, and with that comes a more tech-savvy employee, one for whom video is intuitive and practically native.
Mobility will be a big part of personal video, but not likely on smartphones. They can’t really get much bigger, and their form factor ensures the screen size will never be big enough to be the go-to device for video. Tablets, however, are far better suited for video – and were always built with this in mind – as are phablets, hybrid products that are geared more for video than voice. The killer app mobile device hasn’t been invented yet to make video truly king, but I have no doubt it’s in the works somewhere.
PC shipments may be in terminal decline, but they’ll be with us for years to come. Desktop video is already well established, but clearly, the momentum is swinging in favor of mobile devices in terms of the screen of choice. Whether using a PC or a mobile device, the how for personal video is really no longer a barrier to adoption, so we have to look elsewhere for answers.
The second part of this equation – the why – is just as important, and that will be explored in Part 2 for my next column. As a teaser, I will talk about the recent acquisition of Viber in this space, which I believe provides a big clue as to why video is going get a whole lot more popular. This also speaks to the title of this post; if the technology is ready here and now, what are you afraid of? What’s holding you back with video? I think I know – and Simon does too, and to find out, we’ll see you here next time.
Jon Arnold is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.
Edited by Maurice Nagle