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Next Killer Tablet App: Multisite Videoconferencing

September 28, 2011 | David S. Maldow, Esq.
multipoint_video_tablet.jpgTired of TSA pat-downs? The cost of a plane ticket now buys a year's worth of multiparty virtual chats via a SaaS model.

By Kurt Marko InformationWeek September 27, 2011 - For IT, the real business promise of video communications has centered on enabling multiparty conferences -- a Hollywood Squares version of the person-to-person call. But until recently, multiparty video hookups were the domain of TV networks and large enterprises that could afford high-priced, dedicated circuits and conference rooms stuffed with expensive hardware.

Luckily for the rest of us, the democratizing effect of technology has brought full-blown multiparty videoconferencing into reach for any company that can swing the price of a monthly software-as-a-service subscription. And rather than staring into a separate webcam, users can take advantage of their tablets.

LifeSize introduced several enhancements to its telepresence solutions, including a 10x high def camera for its room-based systems, an executive solution in partnership with LG, and new MCUs for high-def multipoint video.

Given today's ubiquitous high-speed Internet and video-capable devices, we've long taken for granted the ability to quickly strike up a video call. But while point-to-point video conversations are ideal for letting Grandma in Florida experience little Olivia's first birthday, they're not so great for business collaboration. We've all been on webcasts, the very name of which connotes a TV-like experience of talker and listener, where someone shares a slide deck or PC screen while the rest of us watch and/or play "Angry Birds."

Some of these services, notably WebEx and LiveMeeting (now Microsoft Lync Online), have morphed into bidirectional videoconferencing systems. They have been joined by services like Skype that first added individual video calling and later multiparty capability. Further crowding the market is a slew of VoIP specialists such as 8x8 and Nefsis expanding into the video business.

Aside from the gee-whiz factor of having a group video conversation with far-flung colleagues, the exciting thing about these services is how inexpensive they are, particularly when compared with catching a flight and renting a hotel conference room to hammer out something that might take a team only an hour or two of face-to-face time. And by inexpensive, I mean petty cash, expense-account cheap in many cases.

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