Chris Kranky

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Video on my desktop, nah

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Video conferencing systems continue to make news. And why
not, they’re following Kranky’s law for increased adoption, make it better than
what was before and do it cheaper.


The new system from firms like Polycom, Tandberg, LifeSize,
Cisco — all sport HD-quality video with wideband audio codecs for a stunning
visual experience. Basic conference room units can be had for $6,000 and set-up
is hardly more than plugging the units in an Ethernet plug.

And why shouldn’t these systems be less expensive, they’re nothing
more than a glorified PC with a motorized camera and software. Lots of
opportunities though for cool industrial design and a UI that generates a
positive user experience.

Every 10 years or so, when the industry gets bored, we like
to start talking about video, it drives massive bandwidth from the desktop to
the core and tech execs think hear the clear sound of cash registers dropping
money in the till.

I can clearly see the applications for video. John Chambers,
a celebrity CEO, he can do a “show” for more customers in a single day than he
can positively visit and it doesn’t take a big sheet of paper to calculate the
savings. These applications tend to have a simple business case, X business
trips a year saved times Y cost of each business trip = immediate ROI

Unfortunately, outside of the known applications, I sadly
don’t see huge value. My own experiences are that the novelty wears off quite
quickly and people look down or look at whatever ubiquitous PowerPoint chart is
being shown. Worse, we all hate to see ourselves, the little “view of what the
other side is seeing” window. You hear immediate gasps – OMG am I that fat (if you have to ask, well).

The video industry is on some kick to “save” the office
telephone (why it needs saving is beyond me) and developing video phones. Why I
need another box on my desk is also beyond me. I have a laptop with a nice
little built-in webcam that I use infrequently and it works just fine and the
price is great, free or close to it. So I’m not sure what market they’re hoping
to discover.

It’s awful tough to make a business case for cubicle drones
to have video. Saving on conference rooms perhaps? It’s not hard to see Skype
adding a multi-party video element to their software and for free, I’ll try