Posts Tagged 'Skype'

iChat, Video Conferencing, and My Living Room

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 🙂


Video, Social Media, and Unified Communication

I am writing this post after (hopefully) overcoming my jet lag in San Jose, California. I first came to VON a year ago, and this year, in Spring VON, I am moderating 3 panels:

Over The Top Video
Tuesday 2:50 PM

Using the Internet and IP technology to deliver video services has dramatically changed the end user’s experience in both choice and control. Video options abound, from special interest portals and closed circuit programming to the new intelligent set-top devices that use computer processing to deliver rich digital options. What will these options mean to the access carrier and what does it mean for the future of content delivery?

What will keep them coming to TV, when will they turn to the computer? Will changing viewing habits continue to change the options for video delivery? Will picture quality play a determining factor in the success of these new services?

Stephen Dennison Director of CDN Solutions, Content Markets, Level 3 Communications
Maribel Lopez Research Analyst
, Lopez Research
Perry Wu, CEO
, BitGravity

Kfir Pravda IMTC Vice President of Marketing and CEO
, Pravda Media

Online Video and Social Media
Wednesday 4:50 PM

Integrating video into social media applications seems to be a natural fit. New online video sites are beginning to shift more toward community-oriented platforms, where people with common interests can experience video content with complete social networking functionality such as chat, text messaging and interest profiles. This panel examines the viral growth of social networking in combination with traditional broadcast media, user generated content, live broadcast and video chat and how it will affect our viewing future.

    Who will be attracted, and what are the benefits of online video to the social networker?
    Who are some of the companies today providing online video and social media?
    What online video advertising models will take effect in community sites?

      Matt Gore Vice President of Marketing, Paltalk
      Kathryn Jones Co-Founder,
      Rex Wong CEO, Dave Networks
      Kfir Pravda IMTC Vice President of Marketing and CEO
      Pravda Media

      Deploying Cross-Vendor Implementations in the Real World – a Customer View
      Thursday 3:00 PM

      A panel discussing the issues in implementing cross vendor communication solutions for video conferencing and unified communication.

      Mike Brosetti, CEO and Founder, Abovetel

      Dan Bruckner Director of IT Operations
      Stanford Hospital and Clinics
      Anatoli Levine
      IMTC President and Sr Director of Software Support RADVISION
      Kfir Pravda IMTC Vice President of Marketing; CEO
      Pravda Media

      I am also participating in the following panel:
      Reference Architectures for Content Delivery & Unified Communications
      Thursday 1:30 PM

      This panel will address how to extract content from enterprise communications and insert content into both communications and collaboration within the enterprise. This covers everything from conference recordings to social network content, and there are a few standards, but this is mostly unknown territory. The focus here is not on solving the problem in the panel, but identifying how critical an issue this is, and what the major challenges are.

      Mike Borsetti CEO and Founder, Abovetel
      David Boyer Chief Architect, Unified Communications Division

      Cary Bryan, Cisco Systems
      Kfir Pravda IMTC Vice President of Marketing; CEO Pravda Media
      Moderator: Anatoli Levine IMTC President and Sr Director of Software Support

      I am looking forward to hear the following panel:
      General Session: Real-Time Social Communications
      Tuesday 4:00 PM

      This session will explore the state of Social Communications.

      Jonathan Christensen General Manager for Video and Audio Skype
      Brad Hunstable Founder,
      Loic Le Meur CEO and Founder, Seesmic
      Robert Scoble Managing Director, Fast Company
      Ramu Sunkara CEO,
      Moderator: Jeff Pulver Chairman and Founder

      Moving Content from A to B: Issues and Options
      Tuesday 11:00 AM

      In a world of multiple devices with multiple connections to ‘open’ Networks and the virtualization of “The Deck”, multimedia content delivery is no longer about simply getting it there and billing for it later. It’s about dynamically choosing the least cost route and highest margin content sources…transcoding and transcrypting… ingesting from and publishing into multiple destinations simultaneously …intelligently generating and leveraging metadata for making recommendations and targeting ads…making efficient use of thenetworks at hand..and making sure everybody in the value chain gets paid. Come hear experts from Vantrix, Roundbox, and RealNetworks, discuss the challenges at hand and share best practices

      Jean Mayrand Co-Founder & CTO, Vantrix Corporation
      Vinod Valloppill Vice President Product Marketing, Roundbox
      Chris Steck IMTC CTO, and Director of Technology, RealNetworks

      If you are attending the event – email me at, or sms me at +972-544-9458066 and let’s talk!

      Update: Jaxtr – Free calls made better

      Yesterday I talked for almost half an hour with Jeff for free. No news here. But the fact that he called me from his mobile to my mobile, without the aid of computer – that’s something else.

      Jeff and I were using a new service called Jaxtr (can someone please explain to me why all these new companies have to find strange, unpronounceable, stupidly spelled names?). The service is very simple – you sign in, invite your friends (yes, I know, another annoying 2.0 feature), and get a local number to call your friend. From that point onward, you don’t need to use the computer anymore – just call the number and you get to the guy you want, in local call fee. It is easier to use than Skype, cause you don’t need a client, and simpler than Jah-Jah cause you don’t need to go to the website every time you want to make a call.

      Cool isn’t it?

      Well, nothing is perfect, as they have a strange credit system. When I signed up, I got 100 credits. After Jeff and I talked, I had zero credits. Jeff called me – and I lost my credits. Mmm… a bit stupid isn’t it? If these guys want me to use their service, I shouldn’t pay if someone calls me – it should be the other way around. For years, one of the major obstacles for mobile adoption in Israel was the fact that call receivers had to pay for each incoming call. That caused people to ask their friends not to call them on their mobile. Not really the best way to encourage usage isn’t it?

      Another interesting question is how these guys are going to make money. It’s hard to find a reason to buy new credits, now that the free ones are used. Jaxtr have cool widgets for blogs and email signatures – but so do Skype. So, if I want someone to call me, I just put my Skype widget (as you can see already on the right) and get the same functionality. I hope that this is not another free-as-a-business-model companies.

      Anyway, now I can get 20 credits for each new person I invite as my friend. If you are interested in this service, or calling me and wasting my credits, please leave a comment below and I’ll happily invite you.

      And if anyone from Jaxtr is reading this post – I’d love to have a short chat with you guys, and better understand your business.

      Notes – Jeff wrote about these guys, and also Mike. The company is stressing their social network affiliation as main value proposition and differentiation. I am still not convinced that they have a real edge on Skype and others.

      Update – Konstantin Guericke, Jaxtr CEO left me a comment several hours after the original post was published:

      “…Free calling is a feature of jaxtr, but so are things like being able to receive calls on your phone while keeping your number private and controlling who gets through to voicemail and who gets to ring your phone (and which phone). Also, you can do more with your widget than just receiving calls–for example, you can record an update in your own voice. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but some of our users like this as much as the “Skype without the hassles” feature. Like LinkedIn, we plan to offer our basic service for free, but charge for premium features (and integrate some advertising to support the free version)…”

      Scoble interviewed him here .

      Paris Hilton

      Hey, Even I Can Use Jaxtr!

      Marketing Highly Technical Non Profit Organizations

      As some of you know, I am VP of Marketing and Business Development of IMTC, a non profit technology organization, focused on interoperability of video communication and content delivery technologies. Basically, our members test their video conferencing, streaming and other multimedia applications in real life scenarios, and cooperate with engineers around the globe in advancing this industry.

      Marketing such an organization is a major challenge. First, its work is highly technical, making it hard to extract a marketing message and convey it to media channels. Second, budget is scarce, so regular “carpet bombing” tactics (let’s send 10,000 press releases to newswire across the globe, publish ads in newspapers, and buy booth spaces in 6 shows a year) simply cannot be implemented.

      In the last six months, we’ve done several steps to tackle this challenge. As you know, we are having a panel at VON about the business perspective of standardization, where we present the business aspect of our work. But this is not enough – there are tons of business oriented panels. So, in order to make it more appealing, we invited Skype, which represent the opposite approach, to join the panel and argue that non-standard approach is better for business than ours. Nothing like a good fight to clarify a message!

      Another important issue is how to create an ongoing relationship with the industry. Press releases are single sided. You send them out, shoot all over the place, and hope for the best. I think that PRs are important, especially for product companies, but one thing for sure – they do not create any relationship with readers. It’s like good old television.

      I am proud to say, that after a long process, we have launched IMTC blog, with writers from the organization. The blog covers technology aspects of our work, and its affect on the market. We believe that in time, it will be a news source for unbiased information on multimedia communication and content delivery market today.

      Blog solves two of the issues I’ve raised. It is cheap, and creates an ongoing relationship with our readers. There is also a good chance that it will simplify our media relations – especially with key bloggers.

      However, an official IMTC blog has its own challenges. Unlike press release, there are more content contributors. This opens a whole new range of legal aspects that need to be addressed. Also, blog success is highly dependent on the rate of new posts ( I call it “the Feed-Me-Seymour” blog effect). IMTC is a voluntary organization, so finding contributors for a non technical activity is not just a walk in the park.

      We’ve tackled these problems by forming an editorial team, which has two responsibilities: review all posts prior to publication for legal issues, and constantly contribute posts. editorial team volunteers are interested in creative writing, so it is fun for them, and good for the blog.

      I am the Chief Editor of IMTC blog, so if any of the readers are interested in being guest bloggers, feel free to contact me.

      I also want to thank Boaz Babai for supporting us in this process.

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