I spent some time last week with a networking vendor who demonstrated to us their voice system. Only it wasn’t about phones. Or dial plans. Or even voicemail. The demo was more like…”Yeah, yeah. Voice, phones, voicemail, SRST. Blah, blah, blah. That’s boring. It’s all about *collaboration* now.” The majority of the demo was about instant messaging integration, mail system integration, ring-everywhere, etc. And video. Oh my. Video. They talked about video like it’s the revolution that’s going to save remote workers from the ignominy of having to work outside of that much loved bastion of productivity, the cubicle. Right. If I never saw my cubicle again, I’d wake up a happier man.
Video on your iPhone. Video on your iPad. Video on your Android. Video with your IM client. Video-capable phones that sit on your desk. Fancy HD video phones with largish screens that could still sit on your desk. You’d think the world couldn’t communicate without seeing one another’s ugly faces.
Here’s my two cents. Video is not the new voice. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. I’ve lived quite a long time without it. While I can see some value in an HD conference room where remote participants seem to be in the room with you, I don’t get this “video everywhere” idea. Being able to see people remotely is fun. A novelty. Or put another way…video is more of a toy and less of a business need. Something to stroke the ego of executives who think they need to see and be seen every time they open their mouths. I don’t see the business problem video solves, or we’d have had it sooner. I installed video conferencing gear over a decade ago. It’s not like the technology is new.
On the other hand, I do see problems ubiquitous video could create.
- Hardware upgrades required. Phone with cameras. Phones with screens. Cameras for workstations that don’t have one built-in. $.
- Software upgrades required and/or license upgrades required. $.
- Bandwidth upgrades required. No matter how you slice it, video eats bits. Start pumping video across the wide area, and you’ll eat those expensive bits faster. Much faster, especially if you try to crank up the stream quality. So getcha a bigger pipe. Oh, and maybe a bigger router to go with it, because that 27xx terminating that T1/E1 you’ve been hanging onto maybe ain’t gonna cut it anymore. $.
- QoS challenges. So you finally sorted out QoS for your audio streams, and don’t have that many call quality complaints now. Great! Welcome to video, where you can work on that same project again. Not that bad, those of you that have done it? Well, there must be something to it. Cisco didn’t come up with Medianet because of how straightforward the issues are to overcome.
- Client challenges. I can hear it now…my IM client can’t use my camera because something else is using it! What do I do? Etc. Bah. Who needs that sort of a support headache?
You know that Skype includes free video, right? How often do I use it? Let me see…almost never. Why? I don’t need to see who I’m talking to, and most of the time, I’m multitasking anyway. I’m not even looking at them. Plus…cameras are never aimed quite right. When you are looking at the remote video, the person on the other side is almost never looking AT you. They are looking off to the side, or down at their keyboard, whatever. It’s more like voyeurism then having a face-to-face conversation.
Seriously. We can live without video everywhere. And I’m betting most businesses are going to feel the same way.
Am I missing it? Is video *all that*?