- Of the more than 60 million conference rooms in the world, it is estimated that fewer than 5% are equipped to provide business-quality video conferencing.
- High cost, interoperability issues, complex set-up requirements and poor video quality have been major deterrents to the widespread use of video conferencing.
It was just a few years ago that several global telecommunications equipment providers were proclaiming video to be the key element of enterprise telecommunications expenditure growth that would fuel the marketplace through the next decade. Back then, the emphasis seemed to be on specialized video conferencing rooms with large surround screens that provided an ‘immersive telepresence’ video experience simulating life-size, face-to-face meetings of small groups of individuals. The problem was that these systems cost in excess of $250,000 when the video technology, room setting and acoustics were included. My immediate thought when initially introduced to these large room settings was that the market was limited to a very small segment of the enterprise marketplace. More precisely, while video was still an untapped source of market stimulation, these systems were not simple enough, open enough or inexpensive enough to create that hockey-stick shaped upturn in the market demand that everyone was hoping to see.
Recently, a few announcements touting easy-to-use, laptop-based systems targeted at the 10 to 15-user group video conferencing market and priced under $1,000 have gotten a lot of attention from the marketplace. In late January, Logitech introduced its ConferenceCam CC3000e system designed to turn any small/mid-sized conference room into a ‘video-enabled collaboration room.’ I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Logitech onsite demo using the solution from a conference room in San Francisco and was very impressed with the simplicity of the all-in-one video conferencing solution that runs off a laptop/thin client and provides 1080p HD video, enterprise-quality audio and easy connectivity between the laptop, the system (including a connectivity hub, a 90-degree field-of-view camera and an audio conferencing base) and a flat-screen TV. The Logitech ConferenceCam CC3300e is available globally, priced at $999.99, and can be used with a MAC or PC (using USB) and tablet or smartphone (using Bluetooth or near field communication connectivity). The system is optimized for groups of six to 10 users utilizing Microsoft Lync or Cisco Jabber. It is also WebEx compatible, Skype certified and integrated with Vidyo and LifeSize UVC ClearSea.
In early February, Google announced the launch of Chromebox for meetings, a $999 Core i7-based ASUS Chromebox setup with a remote, camera and microphone for conference rooms. The system supports up to 15 video streams, uses Hangouts in the backend and is also compatible with existing conferencing setups from Vidyo and UberConference (for phone calls). For the first year, users do not have to pay any additional costs, but after that, the cost is $250 per year. Chromebox for meetings is available in the U.S. today and is coming to Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the UK.
While it is clear to me that these newly introduced systems will not be adequate for enterprises requiring high-end immersive telepresence solutions for complex, high-quality video conferencing, I do think these systems, and products like them, will meet the vast majority of video conferencing requirements. Therefore, we may have reached the tipping point that will bring video conferencing to the large majority of enterprises seeking high-quality, easy-to-use video solutions at an affordable price.