First of all, let me make it clear that I have been a big fan of personal VC devices, such as the old Tandberg 1000, T-150, Polycom 3000 for the newer Tandberg 1700 or E20 and the latest Cisco EX, Polycom 4000 platforms . The argument for distributing personal video equipment can be summarized as: Easy to deploy, highly reliable, easy to use, remote management, easy to support, high quality video and overall a good user experience.
The option for personal VCs used the desktop. The main drivers for this approach were perceived as cost, UC integration, better use of physical writing, just a software placement and better integration for content sharing. As a technology manager, it was easy to catch up with I can only install this software and Im done but the reality was to make companies succeed with large desktop video conferences, the main disadvantages of the desktop video conferencing solution were in reality:
A support visit is required to install webcam / microphone and speakers,
The software was difficult to install and configure remotely (manufacturers did not make it easy because each client needs its own specific configuration and dial-plan alias / E.164 number)
Windows XP does not really do a great job with echo soldering
Older PC has really struggled with the process power required for video conferencing, especially with other programs and agents running
The technical tools and skills of the technologies used to handle the existing VC environment differ greatly from what is required to handle stationary video conferencing
The departments responsible for conferences and desks are completely separate
So far, the status quo was quite large, so Polycom PVX was in charge of standard desktop conferences. Cisco and Microsoft kept their own offers (with varying success) and there were some other smaller players like Mirial, Vcon and Avistar to name a few.
The landscape has now changed
The faster computers required to run Windows 7 with greatly improved echo cancellation have made a difference. The fact that millions of consumers worldwide use Skype, MSN or Google+ have made a difference. The broad adoption of the SIP protocol has made a difference and new players into the desktop video conferencing space have made a difference and there is now a further alternative to video devices and desktops VC. But are the benefits of desktop devices still balanced to their advantage?
The latest participant to infringe on the companys video conferencing space is the tablet. Whether its iOS or Android-based, theres now a host of free or low cost programs, so you can make company video conferences from an appliance that many already own. All major video producers have launched their own applications (my own opinion is the Radvision Scopia app jumps in front of Cisco, Lifesize, Vidyo or Polycom apps) All applications provide the benefits youve only had from purchasing a traditional desktop VC device.
Industry changes also help to change the balance of desktop video conferencing programs. The Cisco Movi / Jabber program combined with TMS goes somewhere to provide a decent link between software and management. The Polycom M100 software has also improved considerably with respect to video quality than previous PVX incarnations.
We also begin to see the emergence of light weight clients who either require a small user context installation or just run in a browser session. These simplify all usage and allow ad hoc participants to simply join a video conference.
With the current degree of maturity in software, hardware, and tabletop now available in the mix that provides high resolution video calling, I find it hard to argue for desktop devices anymore in a small huddle meeting room or meeting room.
The software gets better, the PC gets faster and HD video conferences are now available on tablets. So is it time to kill desktop video conferencing devices?