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The Long-Awaited Video-Centric Collaboration Boom: Why This Time it Really is Different (Part 1 of 3)

At the Wainhouse Research Collaboration Summit in Berlin couple of weeks ago, I delivered a presentation titled “The long-awaited video-centric collaboration boom: Why this time it really is different.” My speech, along with others, is archived for on demand viewing. Here’s a summary, in a three-part series.

The real-time visual communications market has long been expected to experience an explosive growth, particularly at times when travel was hampered globally, as was the case during 9/11, SARS, and the  Avian Flu and Swine Flu pandemics. That explosive growth has proven to be elusive so far, but I have a passionate belief that this time we are on the verge of an explosive growth phase.

Up until the 2007 time frame, the industry as a whole had consistently over promised and under delivered. We said video would replace travel, and was a viable alternative to face-to-face meetings. In reality, neither the video nor the audio was great, and it did not work half of the time despite the IT guy standing by to make sure it worked. I call this the “industry black eye.”

By 2007 the industry had pretty much gotten it together and had HD video on nice large flat screens and a robust infrastructure to deploy video to the thousands reliably. But we still had the “black eye,” and it was not easy to lure back the executives who had bad memories from their past experiences.

Cisco’s entry into the market in 2006 has really made a difference in this regard. The executives who were frustrated 6, 7, 8 years ago were lured back in to see the new “TelePresence” solutions – and usually ended up purchasing multiple form factors ranging from immersive multi-screen rooms to HD video at the desktop for the masses. So we are now over the black eye. But that by itself has not triggered – and will not trigger – the explosive growth I am envisioning.

Going forward, I have identified four major growth drivers. This is the first of a three-part series detailing these drivers:

1) The Growing Ubiquity of Unified Communications and Collaboration

Unified communications (UC)  has been a buzz word for the past 2-3 years. Too bad there is no unified definition of Unified Communications. But when I say UC, think of software-centric client/server models of presence, IM, voice and video.

UC clients in the enterprise are now in the millions, and now with the Advanced Media Gateway solution, bringing HD to calls between Microsoft Office Communicator (MOC) clients and the standards-compliant world just got easier.

The whole idea of video – connecting with people face to face no matter where you are – is about collaboration. Collaborate inside the company; collaborate with your suppliers, vendors and partners; that’s what it’s all about.

When you look at it that way, we are increasingly seeing the power of “community collaboration” – Facebook and Twitter bringing disparate people together in the consumer space. During the past year I have seen “enterprise Facebook” type portals popping up in many enterprises. Cisco’s Quad is a good example of this, and so is noo, our own internal social networking tool.

What’s really cool about these portals is suppose I want to contact a channel manager in Russia. I do not need to know who the person is. I simply do a quick search on the portal and my video system of choice will ring that person’s video system.

This is of course all reliant on the architecture. We’re moving from voice, video and data being in disparate silos to a single integrated architecture. It’s all about simplifying the user experience…

Check back next week to read my post on the increasing role of service providers in the industry and changing user habits and expectations.

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