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Maybe WebRTC is video disruptive?

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

badsignalOne of the best and most sure footed businesses to start are those that ‘steal’ market share from someone else.  The hosted video MCU business is clearly a sure fire winner, however, WebRTC could screw up these businesses as well.

A video MCU is effectively a conference bridge for video. These are physical boxes that require high speed Internet access as well. Cheap they are not. They’re sold by the ‘port’ and a port is effectively required for each video end point. Prices on boxes are a mind blowing $1,500 to a whooping $6,000 per port (features depending)

Talk about printing money. This type of pricing is downright criminal. Hey – I wanna get in the video business and undercut these mobsters.

I’m too late, it would seem. A number of hosted video MCU companies have sprung up like Blue Jeans and my friend, Scott Wharton’s company Vidtel. These guys provide  you a virtual MCU hosted in their data center. Ok so label it cloud (because everything is cloud these days), but their pricing is a downright bargain of $399 per month for unlimited usage of a 16 port MCU ($24/per port). My general rule of make-buy is if I can ‘rent’ something monthly for < 10% of the purchase price (factoring in bandwidth and operations), then these offers are a great deal.

But what does WebRTC hold as promise? MCUs tend to be expensive due to specialized hardware with uber complex DSP for the video processing. Hosting as we’ve seen is cheaper still (time sharing if you will). But does the notion of WebRTC utilizing some P2P Bittorrent style Javascript enable this price model to drop to $2.40 per port by leveraging more but cheaper machines to do the work?

What we all know is that prices in technology all make their way to zero as the bigger, better, faster, cheaper axiom disrupts current competition. I’m not admittedly a big video fan, however, the fewer obstacles and a low price encourage people to experiment, try things out and learn whether there are all sorts multi-point video applications.

While the WebRTC API is all but standardized, it’s still early going for the creativity aspects to start to appear. The fall holds promise as the lazy days of summer continue.