Why video vendors need social changes

Over the last 10 years, the telecom industry has made a huge leap in its ability to provide video, but the rest of society has yet to catch up.

Vendors like Cisco Systems, Tandberg, LifeSize and HP have TelePresence products with humungous screens, lifelike sound effects and six-figure pricetags. This is an indication our culture is still biased in favour of in-person meetings.

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In 1998, it was difficult, if not impossible, for most users to get decent quality video over the Internet. Now it’s a bit easier because the networks have expanded. But many other developments that are necessary for widespread adoption of video have yet to happen.

Ten years ago, T1-like speeds, though not prohibitively expensive, simply did not make economic sense to many users are were unavailable to many residents. Most of us are now over that hump, but for video to truly take off, people need to believe that communicating by video for business purposes is as good as a face-to-face conversation.

This will not happen on a widespread basis for 15 to 25 years.

As long as vendors invite customers/analysts/reporters to conferences in a different country to be briefed on their video products, or any other wares, the biggest barrier to adoption will be the comfort level people have with face to face communications, as opposed to any other form.

In order to make video truly pervasive, people need to use it at their desktop or wherever they are. Telepresence in a special room today, which costs as much as a small house, is no more convenient than video conferencing in a special room with an ISDN line was 10 years ago. Another barrier to entry is the effect video has on your network. ISPs like Bell and Rogers insist they must do “traffic shaping” to control the heavy multimedia traffic on their networks. Corporate IT managers must do the same, to prevent critical applications from slowing down while workers look at YouTube.