All boats float, unless they’re tethered
A couple of items of good news this week. With over 44,000 visitors and 900 exhibitors ISE had a record year, proving yet again that it is the premier international event for the broader video communications and display industry. CEDIA and infoComm, joint venture partners in the event must be very happy. Then we have Juniper Research saying that mobile video calling users will number in excess of 160 million by 2017, but they quite rightly point out the challenge of monetising such services.
At ISE I spoke with system integrators such as Saville AV who were having a tremendous visitor response to their multi-screen video conferencing system, which can be tailored to meet users’ very specific needs. I’ve been too long in the marketing / publishing world to lightly use words such as “exciting” (every product launch since Noah floated his ark has been “exciting”), but frankly on the Avaya-Radvision stand there was a genuine air of excitement which seemed to infect visitors as well as staff. OK, LifesSize’s enjoyment of the event might have been a bit blunted by recent corporate developments and Cisco might be less than jubilant these days, but their issues were more than balanced by Vidyo, which is steaming ahead: positive, dynamic and modestly gleeful would seem to describe them pretty well (surely it can’t be too long before they have an Initial Public Offering).
Then we’ve got relative newcomer Ashton Bentley whose technology deal with LifeSize doesn’t preclude them developing products for other OEM clients or selling to corporate and SME users, their stand was as far removed from the centre of the event as it is possible to be, and yet they reported a steady stream of visitors. And so did StarLeaf, another relative newcomer on the scene whose presence-focussed phone, room, desktop, cloud / mobile video solutions were proving a hit with visitors to the UC area at Amsterdam’s RAI.
All this reflects the huge changes that are taking place in the world of work. Most businesses are becoming very finely attuned to their running costs and frankly, those that aren’t don’t deserve to survive. Video collaboration provides a tremendous opportunity for enterprise of all sizes to work smarter and more effectively and to cut out of office costs by a huge amount. Sure, the VC market is growing by some 10%-20% per annum rough and tough and depending on whose figures you want to believe, and all boats float on a rising tide (unless they are inextricably tethered to some heavy legacy anchors) but really, shouldn’t VC be growing a lot faster?
Perhaps one of the reasons for video collaboration failing to reach its full potential is that the different vendors have shown little interest in working together to generally promote VC to potential new users. Yes, there has been some technical collaboration through OVCC but where is the general promotion of VC as a technology?
In the week that ISE opened, the UK government announced the next stage of its £32 billion (US$ 50bn) intended investment in a new high speed rail connection between London and “the north”. The route will cut journey time between London and Manchester by an hour, approximately half of the current time. Which is great for a few people who might live in one place and commute to the other, or for those who have a genuine need to travel. These benefits will kick in sometime in 2032-2033 – provided everything runs to plan. However I can confidently predict that the scheme will massively over-run its budget and arrive several years late. News reports state that there are some 70 groups opposed to this development but supportive groups can be counted on the fingers of one foot.
But when this announcement was being made where was the Video Collaboration lobby? As an industry we should be shouting long and loud, demanding that the UK government recognise there are alternatives to travel, and that a relatively modest investment (cheaper than $50 billion at least), in high speed broadband now would benefit more people in more places and sooner than the high speed rail link. The truth is that neither in the UK nor anywhere else in the world, to the best of my knowledge, is there any body promoting the benefits of video collaboration, and until there is we are, as an industry, condemned to fail to achieve our full potential.
Let me know what you think, and especially tell me of any plans you know of to spend large sums on national projects that might better be spent on video collaboration and ICT infrastructure.