Monday, December 18, 2006

Video Calling -- Is Pre-Planning Necessary?

VoIPGirl asks the question, "are video calls spontaneous or pre-planned" for the most part?

In this still predominantly desktop world -- mobile is coming -- the answer is "a little of both."

In my last post, I talked about how I "eat my own dogfood" by using SightSpeed to enable me to run SightSpeed effectively although I live hundreds of miles away from our Berkeley-based company. When I am not traveling, I am always on my PC -- and, accordingly, logged into SightSpeed -- meaning that I can see when others on my SightSpeed contact list are also logged in or not. If they are -- which is usually the case for folks like our President & COO, Scott Lomond or our Head of Engineering, Jeff Wilson -- then no pre-planning is necessary. I simply call them and have an "Instant Video" conference (IV) just like I would have an IM session. In other words, the vast bulk of my SightSpeed usage for business is spontaneous -- no pre-planning necessary. That spontaneity, of course, is just one of the reasons why video calling/conferencing can be so effective in helping to keep business "connections" alive.

But, in my own experience, the non-business or personal use case today generally is different than the business use case in this still predominantly desktop video calling world. Since most consumers are not online throughout their business days -- or their weekends -- more pre-planning is usually involved today for a personal (i.e., non-business) video call session (between loved ones, friends, etc.). Frequently (and I have experienced this myself), we find that family members do schedule times for live video calling. Of course, video mails/messages require no such pre-planning and I frequently send my wife and kids "good morning" video mails when I am on the road and in a different time zone. And, again, usage scenarios will likely change as video calling goes off the desktop and into the mobile world, as they most surely will. The mobile world enables significantly more spontaneity in all use cases, given that the third screen is always with you and me. Use scenarios for mobile video calling also will change as "one click" video calling enters other environments such as social networking sites, because presence and ease-of-use (and thousands and thousands of potential people to call who are actively online) scream out for spontaneity.

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