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Interoperability a must for continued adoption of video conferencing

July 30, 2009
at 1:54 pm PST

Video conferencing has come a long way since the early 1990s when it was based on proprietary algorithms with PictureTel’s SG3/SG4, VTEL BlueChip, CLI CTX+ as well as several other algorithms and protocols. That was a time of lack of interoperability and a perception that the technology just didn’t work.

Today, we have a comprehensive portfolio of standards for both H.323 and SIP and customers, who enjoy the benefits of vendor choice while still being able to communicate with others.  In a recent article in Telephony, the necessity of interoperability was addressed and some vendors are still saying it is not a “must”-- which is exactly the failure which contributed to video conferencing losing steam in the 1990s.

Vendors that have been in this business for years realize the importance of interoperability and only vendors new to the business think that their proprietary way of doing it is better than working with the hundreds of thousands of installed units in the field.  This is evident by the failure in connecting to the standards compliant world of H.323 and SIP devices.  Some vendors started in the market just a few years ago and told the public there was no need to connect to “legacy” systems since those systems were of poor quality.

The reality is those “legacy” systems are capable of high definition at 1080p and 20kHz CD quality audio as well as many other things that have evolved since the 1990′s. And guess what -- many companies don’t want, or can’t afford, to recreate their entire systems.  Industry veterans have built the highest quality products available and have also maintained backwards compatibility to the installed base of H.323 and SIP devices by designing that ability natively into the devices.  The new proprietary way of doing things is to do it your way and then sell a gateway that converts the new way to the standard way.  Sounds good, but gateways simply do not scale.

In summary, proprietary methods have never stood the test of time in this industry, just as they’ve failed in so many other industries.  Soon or later the vendors must converge for the technology to be successful and that convergence will be around worldwide standards.  For telepresence to really take off, some of the new players in the industry need to get behind standards based devices.  Lack of choice is rarely a good thing.

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