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Skype video wins

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

A friend of mine is the IT Director for a major government civilian agency. We were discussed the hype surrounding video when he revealed to me that his agency was mothballing all of it’s video equipment. “What? In the midst of all the noise with video conferencing, you’re canning your system?”, I gasped. The answer was a qualified yes.

But why? The answer was simple, no one was using the video and the maintenance and expense was making it too costly on a per use basis.  He noted he is looking for a low cost PC based solutions but many of his users had discovered they can utilize Skype, which works fine and is effectively free. He was keen to see what Skype did next in this area.

Skype has been busy working with various large screen display vendors to embed the Skype client, along with a small web cam into new monitors and screens. Clearly the display is becoming ‘smarter’ . Some of these vendors are pursuing the home market, but others the enterprise.

While fixed video conferencing units have dropped in price (the lowest I’ve seen is about $6k), clearly the video vendors don’t want to sell you a single $6k unit, they’re trying to milk at least $100k out of you! The day might yet emerge where you pop into a local Best Buy and purchase a 42″ LCD Hi-Def TV/Monitor for $895, plunk it down on a conference room table and use that as a video solution. Installation is easy, no firewall issues with the added bonus you can watch sports when no one is around.

Clearly, this type of solution lacks some features for remote camera control, nor will it have an microphone and speaker arrays for quality sound, but for $895, it may be good enough and the current video providers are right to be nervous. Whatever price there is bound to drop.

The upside is that at $895, it almosts become a must have for any conference room. Many companies have steadily been replacing the traditional LCD beam box with televisions with a VGA input (virtually all of them). The big plus, you don’t have to dim the lights and put your participants to sleep. Companies who haven’t even begun to consider video, might well find niche use applications that again for $895, are easily warranted.

TV manufacturers, after a long run selling plasma and LCD displays, have now found the market slowing as everyone has replaced the traditional tube display. Clearly a big upside for them, assuming they can hit a price point that is no brainer for the consumer.