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2009: The Year Even Clooney Lost Out to Video Communications

December 30, 2009
at 10:02 pm PST

Guest Post By Larry Lisser

Recently, I made the obligatory trip to George Clooney’s latest movie, ‘Up in the Air’. Predictable results followed: Clooney played the same guy he often does and my wife was just happy to have watched his pretty face on the big screen for two hours. What I didn’t expect was to see how central video communications was to the story line. This got me thinking.

There can be little debate that the year 2009 was the best yet for video communications. After years of false starts (ie. before widespread broadband) and then a somewhat remarkably slow start even once its quality issues were no longer, video found its legs this year. Indicators of video’s accelerating market momentum were everywhere, coming at us in the forms of mainstream media coverage, viral user base growth and of course M&A activity.

The acquisition roster proved to be the strongest evidence yet. By the time the year was done, we counted three buyers and four deals with bets aimed squarely on the future of video over IP communications. Grand total: in excess of $6B. No small bets by the buyers of Tandberg, Skype, LifeSize and SightSpeed (in order of transaction size).

up-in-the-air-reviewNow back to Clooney. He played a hired grinch; someone who traveled the world every week to deliver pink slip news on behalf of his firm’s corporate clients. Early in the plot, an upstart member of his own head office team tried to re-write his playbook though -- and eliminate travel expenses -- by introducing video as a means to fire people from afar.

Clooney pushed back (charmingly, of course), professing that what he did for a living required in-person communications and could not be done as effectively by camera. I’ll let you discover the rest at the movies, but suffice to say that I came away with a few year-end revelations about video:

  1. What we once thought to be the obvious and pervasive applications for video (ie. travel replacement), may not end up being the ones that spur exponential growth. Think video as a component of a process and not just as an advanced form of communications.
  2. The video enabled call center is coming. Actually, it’s already here but few of us have experienced it real-time. Imagine for a moment the difference in empathy you and an agent might exchange during a heated customer service conversation about a canceled flight -- if you were looking at each other.
  3. I’m shifting terminology from ‘Video-Conferencing’ to ‘Visual Communications’. The former has become too limiting. Conferencing implies just that, while visual communications can and will mean so much more.

So the year ends with bankers, end-users, the media and now Hollywood having told us that 2010 and beyond hold much more than just promise for video communications. As Andy Abramson put properly into context for us this week, if VoIP was the industry of the decade, the next ten years will belong to video over IP. Or Visual Communications, if you prefer.

Post re-published from Telephony2Market.

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