Just when will videoconferencing really penetrate the mainstream?
It was interesting to hear in an IDC presentation yesterday that despite the sums of money being spent on video over WANS, there's still a significant number of CIOs who have no plans to roll out the technology - according to IDC figures about half of enterprises have no plans to roll out the technology. And that's despite the efforts put in by the likes of HP with Halo and Cisco, whose push of its Telepresence system is in line with the company's stated belief that video is one of three key technologies for the company.
What's making the reluctance even stranger is that since the economic downturn, there's been axe taken to travel budgets - very publically in the case of public sector expenses and more discreetly in the private sector. Throw in the rapidly falling price of the technology and the wider availability of cheap broadband and videoconferencing kit should be flying out of the door.
But it's not. In some countries, take-up is increasing - the rise is higher in the UK, possibly as a result of our poor public transport infrastructure and high travelling costs. When a rail trip between Manchester and London can cost nearly a thousand quid for a couple of people, the equipment pays for itself very quickly.
IDC senior analyst Eric Owen has an answer for this, highlighting some of the technical issues. There's the possibility that there's not the capacity in an enterprise's network to support video, he said, and there's also the case that it's not always easy to do. There appears to be a demand coming from above but the IT departments can meet that, he said.
It’s certainly the case that it’s not always a trivial thing to do - there’s going to be a question of bandwidth, quality of service issues and arguments over video formats. There's also the long-recognised problem of maintaining eye-contact in a videoconferencing session, something that many people find hard to do. These are all inhibitors - yet should not be complete barriers.
There's probably something more fundamental at stake. There's the recognition that people like their face-to-face meetings. They don't even mind being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 on the way to one of them. Yes, the likes of Telepresence offers high-definition and a high-quality communication and but it pales with the delights of Scratchwood services, Lady Gaga on the car stereo and a post-meetin pint with your colleagues. Sometimes technology only goes so far.
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