Monday, October 15, 2007

"Look Ma, No Hardware!" (Business Video Conferencing Hardware, That Is ...)

Uber blogger and communications thought leader Andy Abramson wrote an incredibly insightful and provocative post this weekend about the current state of the business video-conferencing market. Specifically, Andy bemoans the current "perverted" economics of those so-called "solutions" -- and, in particular, about how all of the "big guys" in the business video conferencing space (i.e., Polycom, Tandberg, HP, Cisco) simply don't "get it" and are peddling what he calls "dinosaur" technology. These are room-based hardware systems that are immobile, inflexible, ridiculously expensive, and are for the few rather than the many (certainly no SMB could afford them). They collect dust in conference rooms around the world because they are difficult to use and require a separate IT staff of their own just to place a call.

As Andy points out, the business video conferencing market is long overdue for a "sea change" that addresses the realities of a mobile work force and the unmet needs of the many.

Enter "SightSpeed Business" -- launching soon ...

Good-bye expensive room-based hardware video conferencing systems, and hello to the first high quality, cost-effective, easy-to-use, secure, and fully mobile business video conferencing service. It will be the first business-grade video conferencing solution available to every business (less than $20/month compared to tens of thousands of dollars or more per unit). And, SightSpeed Business will be available anytime, and anywhere. It is fully mobile ... just like today's work force. All that is needed is a broadband connection (anything 256 kbps and above is all that is needed for a high quality experience) and a PC or Mac (most of which are now shipping with embedded web cams). No expensive video-conferencing hardware of any kind is needed.

Let me repeat -- NO HARDWARE NEEDED!

Andy points out that this is a very big deal indeed:

"So while the 'big guys' are selling the Street that this [i.e., a mobile work force] all means the need for more installations of the 'big guys' technology, it really means the ROI on the installs is perverted. High cost. Low utility. Lost time. Usable by only a few and not by the many. It is a preservation of the power elite, and a perk for upper management ... How can a single system be efficient until you add more locations and endpoints ... [SightSpeed has] built the Southwest Airlines equivalent to H-P's Halo or Cisco's Telepresence platform and have taken it much further, stretching the limits to anywhere there is real broadband, but at peanut prices that are like Southwest tickets ..."

SightSpeed Business is positioned to disrupt the multi-billion dollar business video conferencing market in much the same way that disrupted the multi-billion dollar CRM market -- with high quality, ease of use, and affordability. SightSpeed Business, in a word, is democratizing -- available to all businesses to use ... and to use on a daily basis (rather than for just "special occasions" by the upperist of management in the biggest companies). And, that is when video conferencing really works -- when it is available to everyone and is commonplace.
Of course, as Andy points out, mobility also is essential in the business video conferencing market -- yet, until now, the focus has been on expensive hardware and infrastructure.
As I am fond to say, I am living proof of the power of a first-class mobile video conferencing solution (and the unique empowerment resulting from video as compared to voice and text when used regularly). For two years now, I have predominantly run Berkeley-based SightSpeed virtually from my home office in San Diego using our award-winning video conferencing service. It has enabled me to meet face to face with my team for hours a day, even though I am mostly hundreds of miles away. I couldn't do what I do without it.

And, I can take it with me to Starbucks ...

Try THAT with your current clunky hardware units from "the big boys!"