Simon Says: You Should Never Have to Sacrifice Quality

Simon Dudley, Video Evangelist, LifeSize

In this series, Simon Dudley, LifeSize’s video evangelist, provides his “two cents” about the video conferencing industry.

Isn’t it funny how in all the modern movies video communication is completely commonplace, but also really low quality? I think it’s because otherwise the director would confuse the audience about where the characters actually are. That’s the funny thing about quality: we know it when we see it, but it’s hard to describe and it is completely subjective. It’s also contextual. Would you be satisfied with the same quality on your television that you experience on your tablet or smartphone? I would guess not.

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We all accept this trade-off between ubiquity and utility every day. For example, for how long would you accept a landline phone that had the same quality as your cellphone? Dropped calls? Static? Poor audio quality? If your cell phone wasn’t so darn useful you probably would have dumped it years ago. Don’t even start me on what an amazing compromise we all live with these days when it comes to smartphones and battery life. Ten years ago, I got a week out of my old Nokia 2112. Now, I barely get a day from my iPhone. The trouble is that I’m in love with my iPhone, so I’m prepared to make sacrifices.

Desktop video conferencing has been around now for nearly 20 years. Remember the earliest products? They took up three ISA cards, had ISDN lines hanging out of them, managed 15 frames per second at best and cost $5,000. Can you believe anyone bought them?

These days, high definition quality is available on any modern laptop and the quality is stunning, but laptops cannot replace a room-based video solution. Sure, they could work for one person, but the screen size, microphones and cameras wouldn’t work for a conference room. For a one-to-one chat, a laptop with high definition quality picture is acceptable. For many people, it is a compromise worth making. For someone who travels constantly like I do, it’s invaluable.

I’ve recently heard some industry buzz about software endpoints on PC’s, tablets and smartphones being poised to destroy the room-based video conferencing world. I don’t agree. As the number of users of video communications increases, so will the requirement to equip all locations with the technology.

Think of this way: watching a TV show on your iPhone is an excellent way to catch up when you’re traveling, but when you’re sitting in your living room, your family is sitting all around you and the movie is about to start, do you reach for your iPhone or the remote control for your TV?

+Simon Dudley

One Response to “Simon Says: You Should Never Have to Sacrifice Quality”

  1. Jonathan English

    It’s an interesting debate, here’s my ‘tuppence’…

    While I agree that laptops and tablets (there’s still a lot of the those funny PC things out in the real world too) are not necessarily the end of in-room videoconferencing I believe it will slow it and possibly lead to a slow decline in many organisations.

    This slowing and possible decline are not a result of tablets and ultra-notebooks per se but rather the evolution of the workplace. 

    As enterprise workplace strategies create more flexible working environments we are seeing a move away from the ‘traditional’ meeting room, towards something even less room system friendly.

    Let’s face it, room systems fail to deliver ‘awesome’ quality beyond four people in view and immersive telepresence is just too flippin expensive…as the workplace evolves and ubiquitous personal video replaces the phone (how many folks huddle around speaker phones these days?) you guys might just see that room business decline.

    To finish with a little evidence to support my suggestion; following my organisation’s recent proof of concept for self service, ‘meet me’ video bridging or virtual rooms as we like to call them we noted that our estimated 20% of participant systems being desktop video users was actually just over 50%, we haven’t deployed tablet video yet but when we do…?


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