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Video Conferencing the Best or Worst Return on Investment You'll Likely Ever Get

October 25, 2007 | Chris Payatagool
ItbusinessEdge.gifBy Rob Enderle

I've been covering video conferencing for several decades and it has often fascinated me how some companies get a massive return on investment from their systems while others have what amounts to a wasted room full of expensive, unused hardware. With the new high-definition products coming to market, let's do a quick overview of the offerings and why some pay off and others don't.

A Little History

Video-conferencing systems have been around since the '80s. At first they required a leased line or satellite service and a trained technician to get the thing to actually work. Latency was horrible, but as long as you were in presentation mode - which is often the case during a presentation - they weren't that bad. However, if you wanted to have a collaborative meeting, the latency could drive you nuts, and these systems, which often cost more than $200,000 in today's dollars, were known to sit around unused.

As networks improved, so did the ability to connect systems, and ISDN allowed any system to call any other system without requiring an expensive dedicated T1. These systems typically came with directories for the calling information of the other systems you could call. There also was a level of interoperability as common standards allowed one vendor system to talk to another. Latency was improved, but it was common to take the voice side of the call out of band, or basically use a regular phone system to handle the voice and if lip sync wasn't right, at least it was better than everyone talking on top of each other.

Video bandwidth was limited, and it wasn't unusual to have cameras that automatically followed speakers because wide-angle shots weren't very useful. My experience with these cameras was mixed. The cameras often would lock in on room light fixtures during a talk, which caused some disruption. Still, as a way to present to groups of people, these systems were usable and, if used, could recover their cost in several months.

[via ITBusinessEdge]

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