The Future Of Videoconferencing

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How cool would this be?

VARs in the not-too-distant future could be deploying solutions that turn an entire wall of a CEO's office into a high-definition video display, providing a virtual window into a remote location thousands of miles away. Or video solutions that project a 3-D image that can be viewed from all sides with accurate color and meticulous detail. Or education solutions that allow a professor to interact with hundreds of students simultaneously across the globe with a level of realism that makes it seem as if that teacher is right there in the room with them.

To hear executives from videoconferencing vendors tell it, these sci-fi-esque offerings could move from concept to reality within the next few years. Many of them are technically possible now, just not smooth enough or cheap enough for mass adoption.

While vendors paint a tantalizing picture of future technology, solution providers today find themselves in the position of having to prepare for it. They are grappling with the realities of a fast-paced transition that requires them to add new skills and adapt to new sales environments. But it's a shift they must make now to stay ahead of the curve and the competition.


Slide Show - Videoconferencing Today and Tomorrow

"Videoconferencing finally has everything it needs to flourish: broadband, big pipes, integration to the desktop is now simple," said Joseph Fuccillo, president and CTO of Juma Technology Corp., a solution provider in Farmingdale, NY. "I showed my daughter presence, how she could see if I'm online and launch a video call to me. She's so excited to see me. If it's easy enough for my eight-year-old to do it by herself, we've arrived."

The drive toward ubiquitous video in businesses and homes is without doubt underway, vendor and solution provider executives said.

"It's the most natural form of communications, right? None of us likes to go through life blindfolded, and we have been in the business world," said Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of the emerging technology group at Cisco Systems Inc., San Jose, Calif. "Learning how to type on a keyboard, having to read and write, versus communicating naturally, the technology never before was able to truly support that."

That's all changing as technologies such as high-definition (HD) videoconferencing and telepresence make their way into the market.

In a recent survey of 327 conferencing and collaboration customers, 23 percent said they are using HD videoconferencing, up from only four percent a year ago, according to Wainhouse Research. Another 23 percent said they plan to deploy it within a year, while another 20 percent said they plan to test it within a year.

In separate research, Wainhouse said that the telepresence market, while not expected to reach $1 billion by 2011, will grow steadily at well over 100 percent per year for the next four years. That's part of an overall unified communications products and services market that was projected to hit $22.6 billion in 2007, on its way to $48.7 billion by 2012, according to combined research from Wainhouse and In-Stat.

Vendors such as Cisco, Hewlett-Packard Co., Polycom Inc., Tandberg Inc., LifeSize Communications Inc., Telanetix Inc., and others have all entered the telepresence market, giving solution providers a flood of technology options.

"We do a lot of TelePresence installs," said Benjamin Patz, president and CEO of Coleman Technologies Inc., a solution provider in Orlando, Fla., of Cisco's TelePresence line of HD video products. "It is a challenge getting it into the mainstream because of the bandwidth requirements, but we see clearly what the future is going to be: It's going to be video."

Next: The IP Push

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