Is mobile & desktop video conferencing undermining the whole industry?

The rise in mobile and desktop video conferencing is a ‘double edged sword’ for the image of the industry with positive and negative connotations.

That’s the view of Ian Carter from supply specialist Videonations who says only room-based systems can deliver a genuine natural meeting room experience – as sales across the industry plummet by 20% due to mobility-based solutions taking a bigger share of the market.

He is predicting almost every company in the country will be using VC in the next five years, following similar trends to the popularity of fax machines in the past. But he is wary of the rise in smartphone and desktop applications that can have a good and bad impact on the image of video technology.

Ian-Carter-Video-Conferencing-Videonations“If a customer comes to me today I don’t mention specific technology, it’s about delivering a natural meeting room experience. That’s based on various components I need to deliver for it to be considered a serious alternative to always having to travel. VC isn’t going to stop travel; it’s a viable alternative to having to travel,” he explained.

Videonations is a complete video conferencing and audio visual specialist spanning supply, installation and management. It’s now part of the Manchester-based Nycomm Group of companies that includes comms supply specialist Nimans. Videonations has identical offices in Altrincham and London that showcase the latest hi-tech innovations such as an ‘immersive telepresence suite’. It’s a space age facility that has a Starship Enterprise feel.

Ian says just two in every 10 meeting rooms has a video conferencing device – and in the last 18 months sales of room systems have dropped by a fifth across the industry at the expense of desktop and mobile devices.

“I think the slump in room-based systems is because the market has demanded desktop conferencing. Too many people have thought: Why spend £10,000 on a room system when I can buy a webcam for £40 and do it that way? The problem is that it doesn’t deliver the natural meeting experience and this can undermine the user’s perception of what video conferencing is capable of delivering.

“There’s been talk that smartphones are reshaping the VC world. There’s a place for them but I wouldn’t want a three hour meeting looking at a small screen, or if you’re on a train you would lose signal. 4G will help of course.”

[separator top=”40″]Ian believes modern mobility trends create a mixed impression of video conferencing as a whole. “It’s a video experience but it’s not natural so in terms of a VC user perception, it’s good and bad. It allows people to have video wherever they are and undoubtedly more people are using and being introduced to VC which can only be good news. But it doesn’t always generate a great experience.

“The positive is that people may want to upgrade to a full room system but if they think this is as good as it gets via their mobile etc they won’t be likely to invest any more money. Picture and audio quality can be hit and miss so the rise in mobile and desktop usage is a double edged sword for the overall image of VC.  Picture quality can be very good but if you have three people on a video call on their mobiles via a ‘bridge unit’, it is unlikely to be brilliant.

“FaceTime and Skype are other consumer experiences that influence people’s perceptions. All these little applications are holding back traditional sales of room systems. From a cost perspective you could argue it would be cheaper for a company to equip its staff with an iPad but it can never be compared to a room system.

“Some would say the era of room systems is dying but I don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s comfortable sitting infront of your PC especially in an open plan office where you would be potentially disturbing colleagues. Eventually sales of room based systems will start to claw back lost ground due to a combination of factors. In the past companies didn’t have the bandwidth available they do now. Processing is getting faster, bandwidth is cheaper and user interfaces are getting simpler.”

Ian concluded: “VC is a delivery mechanism to allow collaboration rather than just data sharing – smarter technology for smarter ways of working and its impact and usage will continue to grow.”