Back in the Picture
Former Cisco and Tandberg exec OJ Winge debuts a startup with some possible breakthrough ideas on interoperability, display on devices, and meeting rooms.
Last March, OJ Winge and I discussed the video industry. At that time he was about to become a Partner at an investment company focusing on technology and growth companies. We now know that the investment firm was Ubon Partners, and one of its major investments is a firm called Acano.
Acano launched just last week and announced "Ubon Partners has appointed one of its partners, OJ Winge, as Chief Executive Officer." How does a startup get a CEO that was a former SVP at Cisco responsible for more than $4 billion in collaboration revenue? Acano is not a typical startup; it is funded, managed by an experienced team, and its products are aimed at an international enterprise audience and are already in trials.
Acano is a new type of audio, video, and web collaboration company. It has some new twists on familiar ideas, like any-device and meeting rooms. It integrates with existing infrastructure, including Cisco Call Manager and Microsoft Lync; ties into Exchange; and may be the first solution that natively supports H.264 AVC, SVC, WebM/VP8, Microsoft RTVideo, and H.265 video codecs and AAC-LD,G.722,G.722.1(c), G.728,G.729a and OPUS audio codecs. This gives users ranging from a Lync client on RTV, a Polycom system on SVC and a Cisco system on H.264 the ability to join the same meeting. The WebM/VP8 is key to enabling WebRTC-enabled browsers to participate. This level of interoperability has never been delivered before.
Winge probably feels at home at Acano, as the entire senior management suite worked at Tandberg earlier in their career (as did OJ himself). The CTO and VP of Products also worked at Codian (a firm Tandberg acquired before Cisco acquired Tandberg). Acano has been quietly developing its products, and has immediate plans for the Americas, Europe and Asia, and Federal markets.
OJ tells me that collaboration is critical to accelerate ideas. That isn't particularly new from him, but his take on current options is that they stifle collaboration. He says they trap ideas inside applications and structures that don't accommodate natural interactions. He believes that Acano will promote collaboration through simplicity. Part of this is done by uniting previously incompatible audio, video and web technologies.
OJ says Acano's solution is built to complement existing installations like Cisco Call Manager and Microsoft Lync, and is scalable for massive deployments. I was surprised to hear a former Cisco executive embracing Lync. "The reality is that there are many large Lync installations out there--it's a product that can't be ignored," said Winge. "Acano enhances the experience of all Lync installations by allowing Lync users to come together in 'coSpaces' with all sorts of other technologies: telepresence systems, video conferencing, audio calls, and WebRTC clients, to mention a few."
These "coSpaces" are a new twist on meeting rooms. OJ offers this definition: "A coSpace is a unique concept that we will continue to build on--its first step is to bring together various technologies into one 'room'. Think of it as a virtual meeting room, only radically better. In coSpaces, people have the ability to share their ideas, create content and discuss in real-time or over time."
Notable is the fact that Acano's coSpaces are persistent. They can be created for projects, and the notes and agendas from prior sessions remain accessible. coSpaces are web accessible via email invites or dial-in. This enables people to use them as an MCU, audio bridge or web conferencing solution.
Another interesting concept is Acano's approach to devices. While many visual tools now support multiple and mobile devices, Acano goes further by allowing multiple devices at the same time. For example, you can use a phone for private audio and an iPad (or other mobile device) for concurrent video. You can also split the video streams into different devices such as the desktop for participant video and the iPad for shared content.
Acano intends to sell the solution through a network of partners including resellers and service providers. "We are already working with a number of partners, and have the solution installed with several customers in trials." Acano plans to make its products generally available this Fall.
The video space is going through a significant transition of mobility, interoperability, and ubiquity--at rapidly dropping price-points. It will be interesting to watch Acano and the reaction it evokes from industry incumbents.
Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz.