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Screen time: how video conferencing is gaining ground

September 12, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
September 11, 2011 via Financial Times by Majia Palmer - If you can't beat them, join them, goes the adage. The fact that Sabre, one of the world's largest travel companies, recently started offering video conferencing as an alternative to flight bookings says a great deal about how much the use of telepresence has grown over the past few years.

A few years ago, the high-end telepresence room, equipped with cameras and big screens, was still something of a chief executive's toy - a status symbol to sit alongside the corporate jet.

Many of the systems were not bought on the basis of a return on investment calculation, but on a boss's whim.
"It was often the case that the chief executive had experienced it somewhere and just decided he wanted to install it - a bit like iPads for grown-ups," says Scott Morrison, analyst at Gartner.

For almost everyone involved, video conferencing was a jerky experience on a small screen that was widely dismissed as unreliable and unsatisfactory. The past few years, however, has seen the technology advance in a way that means users are finally able to experience the possibilities.

"We are in the middle of a fairly major transition," says O.J. Winge, senior vice-president of the telepresence business at Cisco Systems, one of the leading players in the sector.

"Five years ago, telepresence was in a couple of boardrooms," he says. "Now we have thousands of systems installed, and people are really starting to build their business models around this technology.

"We have full high-definition video calls, and interoperability all the way from a screen on an iPad to the big screen in a boardroom, and even between the systems of different vendors."

Interoperability has been one of the key recent developments.

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