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There is Lots of Video at VoiceCon

There was some joking last year at VoiceCon about needing to change the name. VoiceCon has been focused on Voice for a long time, but the communications bag of tricks has expanded substantially and the big buzz for the last 3 or 4 shows has been Unified Communications. On Tuesday afternoon we had a session dedicated to video conferencing, and had excellent attendance. The three presenters, David Hsieh from Cisco, Warren Barlkey from Microsoft and Joan Vandermate from Polycom, come to the market with very different views. And the resulting conversation was lively and interactive as a result.

Cisco talked about conferencing in terms of their Telepresence offerings, which today extend all the way from the big multi-screen room systems you see advertised everywhere, all the way down to an executive desktop system they call "personal telepresence." Talk about the power of marketing. What used to be a simple video conferencing appliance is now "personal telepresence?"

Microsoft's view of the world is that the network is what the network is, and it's really all about how you connect. They think video starts at the desktop (what a surprise!) and that everyone should have it. Connectivity comes from integration with OCS, so all the presence options of OCS allow you to find your buddies, connect via telephone, Web chat, data share and/or video. Eric Swift gave us a great demonstration of this during the second keynote yesterday morning.

Polycom presented their broad view of video conferencing and the top to bottom alternatives that they support, along with their consistent standards-based strategy. Polycom is the old-timer in this group when it comes to video conferencing, and has been solving customer applications with video solutions far longer than the other two presenters. But does this mean they have the right solutions going forward? Only time will tell.

The most consistent message I heard from all three presenters was that you have to understand your application. How do you plan to use video so that it will bring strategic or operational efficiencies to your business? Understanding the answer to that question will lead you to the right technologies to support your deployments.

The attendance in the room said to me that enterprises are really thinking hard about video conferencing and how it can help their companies. This may be a business that will ride through the current business downturn because it can bring identifiable cost benefits to the companies who deploy it.