Is There Another Market in the Making at Enterprise Connect?
I believe that Telecollaboration will be a bigger part of future Enterprise Connect shows.
Day 2 at Enterprise Connect had the usual Cisco keynote. In it Barry O'Sullivan pointed out that several markets were given their birth at this conference in years past. In 2001 the VoIP market started for real and in 2006 Unified Communications came into its own. I think at this year’s show we saw the glimpse of another market from a young company called Vidyo, although they didn't position themselves that way.
If you missed Vidyo, I'm not sure how, they plastered Enterprise Connect with banners, events and had a huge booth on the floor. Now what Vidyo is pitching is something called "Personal Telepresence" and, while I like the solution, I think Vidyo missed a larger opportunity to create a newer market category--Telecollaboration. The Telepresence market that Cisco evangelized and made what it is today has high quality, immersive video at the center of it, and only that video experience. Over time, Cisco has added other features to it, such as the ability to share a WebEx, but the focus is on the video.
I started thinking about this concept a few weeks ago when I was on a Telepresence session with Paul Mountford from Cisco and a slide was put up on the screen that was superimposed over the top of the video. It was a small box that covered up part of Paul’s chest but I was able to still see Paul’s face. I thought then how nice it would be to be able to swap the videoconference with the WebEx so I could look at the slide in greater detail, and I couldn’t do this. I actually asked Cisco about this at Enterprise Connect and was told that the main focus of Telepresence is on the video, as the most important thing is maintaining contact with the other person. My question is why? And why should Cisco dictate this? I'm the user, if I feel that the WebEx is more important, I should be able to select that. I should also be able to move the content around within the screen so maybe I can put the two side by side. The point is that, as the user, I should be the one in control over what is shown in what part of the screen.
If you look at the Vidyo screen, it's actually just a big screen share. As a user, I can have multiple video windows open at once (the active speaker will move to a predetermined location) as well as multiple applications open.
I might choose to focus on an Excel spreadsheet, another user might choose to focus on a Word document while a third participant might choose to focus on the video sessions. The users decide what the most important collaborative element is, not the systems.
This is the main concept of what I like to think of as Telecollaboration. Telepresence is a core component of Telecollaboration, but not the only part. It may wind up being the most important element in many collaborative sessions but not all the time. Collaboration is about sharing information, no matter what the medium--documents, chat, presence, video, voice, etc--so why not have them available all in one location? Being able to span these across multiple large monitors means I could dedicate one screen to video, one to document sharing and one to other stuff.
This is the opportunity that I thought Vidyo had at this conference. Now don’t get me wrong, I really did like the product. I thought the quality was excellent, very easy to use at an outstanding price point of just around $100 per user. What didn't work for me was the positioning around "Personal Telepresence". I understand the desire to leverage the marketing dollars that Cisco has thrown into Telepresence but that term has become synonymous with Cisco. Even Polycom and HP (who was first to market with Telepresence) have had a hard time getting buyers to think of anyone but Cisco in this market. If Polycom and HP struggle to do it, a newer company most certainly will, no matter how big their booth is at Enterprise Connect.
However, despite the positioning, Vidyo did release a high quality product at Enterprise Connect and I think a new market category was born. It may take a bit of time to catch on since the market is so heavily invested in Telepresence but I do believe that Telecollaboration will be a bigger part of future Enterprise Connect shows.