Monday, January 14, 2008

Cisco's John Chambers -- "Video is the Next Killer App" -- and SightSpeed Aims to Be the Skype of Internet Video Communications

I have just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show (the notorious "CES"), which is the tech industry's annual rite of passage and jump starts the New Year. I met with many, saw too much, and came back with important observations.

Most telling to my business, Cisco's CEO, John Chambers, firmly declared at CES that "Video is the next killer app" and also presented the concept of "visual networking", referring to the combination of video plus social networking.

While Chambers' remarks, as I have seen them, do not specifically refer to video communications services (versus You-tube type video), there is little doubt that he is referring to both. Remember, Cisco has invested heavily -- heavily -- on video communications through its telepresence initiative. Cisco also, of course, recently acquired WebEx, which is a collaborative service that features video a rudimentary form of video communications, among other things. And, the promise of video communications has been a central strategic battle-cry from Cisco during the past year.

Our friends at InfoWorld agree with Chambers, concluding in a recent story that Internet videoconferencing is poised to be the "first killer app" as the world achieves breakthroughs in Internet bandwidth (i.e., delivering the promise of "gigabit Internet bandwidth everywhere").

This InfoWorld article was cited by NSP Strategist who noted that "SightSpeed is working on becoming the Skype of video. SightSpeed wants people to video chat instead of just text message or a simple phone call."

While NSP Strategist's remarks are not precisely how I would put it, directionally, that conclusion is dead on. I may disagree vehemently that we want to emulate some of the things that Skype is known for -- such as poor customer support (J.A. Watson and readers of his ZDNet UK stories frequently have cited these issues) -- but there can be no doubt that Skype revolutionized the voice calling business. Skype turned the business of voice communications on its head by harnessing the power and reach of the Internet. Skype, in other words, is a disruptive business in every sense of the word.

What Skype is to voice communications, SightSpeed expects to be to video communications. And, therein lies the tremendous business opportunity open to us as video communications is finally poised to be the next "killer app", as underscored by John Chambers of Cisco. But, and importantly, Cisco is singularly focused on high cost video conferencing available to the few, whereas SightSpeed is singularly focused on high quality, but low cost (even free!), video communications available to the many. To everyone really (much like Skype is available to virtually everyone for voice calling). As conditions increasingly become ripe for Internet video communications -- as they are today as a result of ever-increasing bandwidth and embedded webcams in virtually every PC, Mac, CE device, and mobile phone -- the Internet video communications market will grow exponentially. SightSpeed expects to lead the way in this market. And, SightSpeed's video communications services are equally disruptive (apart from the consumer video chat and social networking market, and other revolutionary experiences that can be developed on top of SightSpeed's industry leading video services, just think of what SightSpeed's hardware free video conferencing services can do for SMBs and to the existing multi-billion dollar business video conferencing market?)

SightSpeed is essentially the only Internet communications company of any merit or standing that has emphasized video communications first and foremost in its product offering. Other major Internet communications services -- such as Skype, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL -- have always focused first and foremost on voice or text communications, treating video as an afterthought. This will continue to be the case.

SightSpeed has voice and text, but we lead with video. We have always led with video. Video is in our DNA. We expect to continue to lead with video and lead in overall quality, ease of use, feature set and overall customer support. We expect video communications to be as ubiquitous as Skype is for voice communications. And, video communications and the overall power of video are significantly more impactful to human interactions -- significantly more powerful -- than any other form of communications. That's why we feel that what we are doing is quite revolutionary.