One of the most important issues in the immediate future of unified communications is the role that video will play. The question is related to, but slightly distinct from, what role video will play in the enterprise overall.
It's an interesting quandary for the sector. There is no doubt that video has arrived as an application that consumers and business users expect. But is it practical to cram sophisticated video technology into a UC infrastructure? And, if it is, how precisely should this be done? The alternatives seem to be the range of fully featured systems with hooks deep within the UC infrastructure to platforms that are largely siloed and independent that run parallel.
Video Is Expected
People want and expect video in business telecommunications, thanks to the popularity of YouTube and similar services, consumer video chat and other video-based applications coupled with universal familiarity with high-definition television.
"The cost to experiment with video is very, very low."
At the same time, more people are reluctant to travel on business, further fueling the use of video in the enterprise. The reticence to get on a plane began in the aftermath of 9/11 and has grown as travel restrictions have become more intrusive, swine flu hit the news and the recession put more pressure on the bottom line.
In addition, the cost of video is coming down precipitously, both for on-premise equipment and from service providers such as Cisco's WebEx, while the ways in which it can be presented in a corporate setting are multiplying. This makes face-to-face communications more accessible than ever.
People in the field have been told by their customers that video is important. Larry Golob, vice president of business development for Global IP Solutions (GIPS), agrees that video is hot. "Every discussion we have with prospective or current customers inevitably moves very, very quickly to video," he said.
Mark Roberts, vice president of partner marketing for Polycom, a major player in UC, points out that video can do things that just can't be done in e-mail, IMs or even over the phone. "Video is the most elegant interface we've ever seen," he said. "There are two real reasons you use video: You want to a high degree of intimacy with an individual, or you need a high degree of engagement with them."
Video is expected in the enterprise-and it has arrived. It is increasingly common as a cloud-based service, in premise-based implementations and in simple desktop hookups similar to what employees' kids use to chat after school.
Indeed, consumer-level video is finding its way into the enterprise through hands-on trials, just as Wi-Fi, smartphones and other platforms have in the past.