Video Conferencing in a Box!

It has started again! While watching the recent football playoff and bowl games the following commercial was aired:

Two entrepreneurs are standing in an empty hanger wondering where the walls will go in their new office, when in walks a deliveryman. He hands them a phone. One of the entrepreneurs asks what it is and the deliveryman states “its your video conference room”.

But it is not… While you might be able to use it as a video phone it is not a conference room! Desktop systems do not “scale”. You can probably have three or four people crowding around a monitor, but that’s about it. We saw this in the late 80’s when the video-conference manufacturers were selling what they called a “roll-about”. They claimed that you could roll the unit from room to room and conference from any room. The truth was that the unit was commonly moved to one room and left there. If it was moved from room to room people frequently complained about the quality of the image and sound they experienced. In our crystal ball we are seeing the same “evolution of issues” with desktop solutions. A 500-dollar desktop system will not perform to the same level as a 10,000 to 20,000-dollar system that is properly installed and adjusted in a conference room down the hall. Lighting, background noise, camera angles, and the quality of the audio and video all affect the perceived success of a video-conference. While desktop solutions may be okay for one-to-one or one-to-few communications, they do not work well for larger groups. As always, the technology solution has to be appropriate for the intended use – one size does not fit all.