Video Calling is Finally Here, But Where's the Infrastructure?
The industry needs to settle on a standard. One standard. Be it SIP or something else--I don't really care. As long as it is open, accessible to all and adopted by the industry.
I've been working in RADVISION for over a decade now. From my first day here, I've been hearing that video conferencing is "just around the corner", and that next year video is finally going to be BIG.
Guess what? The time has finally come for it to happen.
For those of you who have been off this planet for the past several months, here are a few small examples that prove that it is really happening:
* Skype reported that 36% of its Skype-to-Skype calls during Q4 2009 were...video calls. Not to mention their Skype TV initiative.
* iPhone4 will come with a front-facing camera, and a video calling service called FaceTime. While I don't see any bright future for this service in its current form, you cannot just dismiss any of Apple's moves.
* Microsoft just unveiled Kinect Video, an add-on to the next Xbox, which will enable gamers to video chat.
* Logitech came out with new HD cameras that hook up to their super-simple Vid service.
* Chatroulette anyone?
I can go on talking about Fring, Qik, Knocking Live Video and the rest of the video calling crowd, but you get my point--more video calls are done today by consumers than ever before, and much more than what enterprises are doing with their high-end video systems. And this is how it should be.
As much as I'm thrilled that all of this is happening, both as a RADVISION employee and a video calling user, I remain concerned with the issue of interoperability.
Today every VoIP solution out there can connect in one way or another into the PSTN network, which means that you can connect it to the legacy phone system that is still used by the majority of people on this planet--either as an access device, routing interface or dialing plan. URLs and presence-based dialing are nice, but they cannot beat the good-old phone number, that elusive thing that allows calling almost anyone from almost anywhere using almost anything.
This is what made VoIP phone services an easy choice for most people--you use VoIP, and you connect through PSTN to everyone you used to connect to with the old service.
But what happens with video? We have islands of interoperability with no easy way to close the gap between them. Some will say that dialing video calls should be done by using presence. Others think e-mail is a better solution. Some choose to use SIP or H.323. Others, XMPP or other proprietary signaling solutions. And, in-between it all, there will be an endless mesh of gateways, trying to bridge these islands together, trying to close one hole after another.
It's not enough.
I am using today, on a daily basis, instant messaging services from Skype, Google and Microsoft with my different acquaintances. I don't want to have the same for my video calls--especially not if I am going to invest money in adding a camera to my TV or purchasing a mediaphone device for video calling.
Interoperability here is key. And as we don't have a good PSTN fallback for video, I'd say the industry needs to settle on a standard. One standard. Be it SIP or something else--I don't really care. As long as it is open, accessible to all and adopted by the industry.