High-Definition Videoconferencing Heads Mainstream

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Each of us at some point has taken a needless business trip, and we have been on a phone call when we'd rather talk to the person face to face.

High-definition teleconferencing systems, also known as telepresence, promise to solve these problems by giving us access to systems that allow us to clearly see each other and share files from various remote locations. But as promising as this technology is, it's largely been limited to the office because of its cost and the amount of network bandwidth consumed.

But at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, there were two developments of note. Verizon and France Telecom, for example, are partnering with Cisco in a trial of high-definition video services for the home. Secondarily, Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed an implementation of high-definition video running on a smartphone based on Intel Atom processors and videoconferencing software from Vidyo that uses a new architecture to make it easier to deliver high-definition videoconferencing.

The widespread availability of high-definition videoconferencing has some interesting implications for business. First. if carriers deliver the service, the pressure video puts on internal networks is greatly reduced. And second, it promises less travel and more productive meetings. That might not be good news for airlines, but it is for anyone who has wasted three days of travel to go to one meeting.

We're probably still a year away from seeing these services broadly deployed. And although Cisco likes to pretend it invented the telepresence concept, the fact is that Polycom, Mitel, Hewlett-Packard, Vidyo and a host of other vendors are all in the game. So don't be surprised when you see carriers in the coming year making alliances with the providers of telepresence equipment of all stripes.