Video conferencing was and still is an enterprise play. As a technology it has many business applications, especially cutting traveling costs.
However something is missing. First of all, setting up a video conference call is still a pain. Both sides need to coordinate IP addresses, and know what type of equipment is being used by the parties. Second, it is not clear that video conference is the preferred communication method by most people. it seems that the need to, well, look good while conducting a call stopped many business users from further utilizing this application.
There are many great resources for Enterprise video conferencing equipment. However, consumer video conferencing is a different domain.
When Skype lunched their video conferencing capability, it was a nice to have feature. For me, the quality was not good enough. But using it to talk and see overseas friends made sense, as quality was not a major consideration for me.
But now I have a Mac, with its built-in camera and iChat client. A lot of my friends have Macs too (yes, partly due to my nagging mixed with infantile enthusiasm from my Macbook Pro). The video quality is much better than Skype in most cases, and the usage is as simple as it can be – just press the little video cam button on iChat and you are up and running. I can honestly say, that I’ve switched at least 50% of my communication with other Mac users to video conferencing, due to ease of use and high quality.
Yesterday I showed my business partners a transatlantic video conferencing session with Carl Ford, located in New Jersey. The quality was great, and the result was pretty impressive. Both the call and the “equipment” were free.
So what can we learn from this story?
1. Video conferencing has a wide consumer appeal.
2. Just like any other product – usability and quality are the basics. Without them, don’t expect market adoption.
3. Well… Buy a Mac 🙂