Carl Weinschenk spoke with Alan Greenberg, Senior Analyst and Partner, Wainhouse Research.
Weinschenk: It appears that the videoconferencing arena is rather fluid. What are the current dynamics?
Greenberg: There are some major disruptive forces taking place. A couple have to do with companies like Microsoft, Avaya, Nortel, Alcatel and Cisco paying more attention to collaboration. It's what the big guys are doing which then leads everyone else to try to figure out what will be the impact. The other issue has to do with high definition and some standards in both video, like the arrival of high definition and SIP, which is Session Initiation Protocol. The other thing is the 3G factor and whether or not people [will use] mobile video at their handsets.
Weinschenk: Where is this all leading? Is it clear yet?
Greenberg: I think the answers are not there yet, but that they are going to become apparent over the next couple of years as some of the big initiatives that have been announced by companies like Cisco and Microsoft make their way into the marketplace. What's happening is people are creating alliances - for instance Polycom and Avaya or Polycom and Microsoft and Tangberg and Cisco. The big boys are not interested in group systems other than some very high-end suites.
Weinschenk: So is all videoconferencing IP-based now? Are the old platforms dead?
Greenberg: Things don't ever happen as quickly as all the hype suggests. People just don't go over to IP overnight. There is a lot of investment in TDM infrastructure and it's not an overnight transition. [Companies] may be doing IP for VoIP, but it's trials, or they are doing some installations and rolling it out gradually over time. VoIP has been around for a long time. We hear about some deployments but people are not throwing out existing technology. [Emerging platforms such as VoIP and 3G] will have an impact on conferencing. The videoconferencing bridge makers are coming up with ways of accommodating new technologies. Someone may be calling in on a bridge from a 3G video-enabled cell phone. For business buyers I think it's a matter of understanding the productivity possibilities and what are the ways in which collaboration technologies can become part of the work flow. That's the other direction you will see a lot of big players go. In the discussion about conferencing and collaboration, it's not just about saving travel, that's not the point. The point is becoming more productive, how to drive business in creative ways. These technologies can do it in big ways - or they can be time-wasters if you are not savvy about the application.