- Desktop video has always been a tough sell, but now the value is easier to prove because the cost is lowering.
- Skype proved the people do like to use personal video—if it’s free (or relatively “free”) and easy. The same will apply in the enterprise.
The time is fast approaching for IT managers to begin taking desktop video seriously. This isn’t due to the dramatic improvements in the types of devices and services that support personal video, nor does it have much to do with the incessant marketing initiatives driven by certain suppliers that seem convinced customers are wandering in darkness and just don’t know what they are missing.
It doesn’t even necessarily have as much to do with consumerization or some sort of generational shift in the workforce as some might think. Rather, the impending rise of personal video use in business environments has everything to do with the steady and irreversible trend toward more virtual enterprises requiring distributed collaboration teams, and the increasing proficiency of the applications supporting video.
With regard to the actual usefulness of desktop video—in any of its many and varied formats in PC windows, dedicated video devices or next-generation tablets and smartphones—I have been heretofore a stout skeptic. My main concern has been with the relative value desktop video could provide when set against the cost of deployment. I didn’t see much, and neither—apparently—did IT managers, as they avoided buying and deploying such solutions with incredibly reliable consistency.
But I have always acknowledged that the use of video could and should enhance communications and collaboration in business environments. The visual element focuses the discussion, and adds important non-verbal nuance to the words being spoken. There are other benefits, too, that desktop video proponents have been reciting—in incredulous frustration—for years. Enhanced productivity! Faster time to market! Innovation! Increased competitiveness! I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
What’s different now is that Skype and other Web-based communications tools have proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that people do in fact like to use video when communicating, and will even do so at sub-optimal quality levels—as long as it’s free. And easy. When cameras started to get embedded in laptop screens, and Skype and the others added the video-call option with just a simple click, guess what? People used it, and liked it.
So what we are seeing now is that business technology suppliers are beginning to give up on the idea of selling personal or desktop video communications and collaboration as an expensive add-on solution, moving instead toward embedding the capability to manage video, for example, into the same systems the run voice and unified communications systems, and into collaboration platforms of all sorts. As the process builds momentum, I suggest that—like Skype at home—video communications will start to become more and more commonplace. I’m not talking about high-end videoconferencing, or telepresence, here—that is a growing, but still niche, market. I’m talking about using video and getting the enhanced interactions that come with it, as regularly and easily as we use voice or IM or e-mail today.
It won’t be free, of course. There will be network considerations, depending on the scale and scope of video usage at the desktop, and there will be the type and quality of the devices themselves. But the key thing is that this potential video adoption wave won’t be a monumental IT management decision. It will just happen.