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VidyoH2O for Google Plus Hangouts Opens New Video Options

Vidyo's announcement of VidyoH2O for Google+ Hangouts last week represents a significant step in integrating legacy video systems with Hangouts, and it also points the way toward future developments that could include WebRTC in the mix.

VidyoH2O is a gateway from existing SIP, H.323, and IP-PBX-based video systems using H.264 to the Hangout environment that uses VP8. The VidyoH2O gateway function is essentially a tether point that talks traditional legacy video on one side and Google+ Hangouts on the other side, providing transcoding for the video streams, including the mixing and image delivery for multi-party conferences.

Announced prices range from $99 per month in the cloud to $149 for a premises version.

The costs are equivalent to other cloud offers like Blue Jeans, especially if the primary users will be going directly to Hangouts and there are only one or two legacy attendees. Other cloud offers that have 8 ports for $299 per month may be more cost effective if most of the attendees are on legacy systems, however, if you use Hangouts and most of the attendees are on devices that are directly integrated, this is a great way to include a room system or two.

VidyoH2O opens up Google+ Hangouts as a potential video solution for a whole new group of users. Data from analysts like Gartner shows that 70% of enterprises have made video investment decisions with one of the legacy vendors, meaning that the inability of Hangouts to accommodate those systems definitely limited the use in many enterprises.

The key question is whether enterprises will see Hangouts as a way to extend their video outside their organizations. Obviously, for the growing group using Google Apps and other tools, this will be a welcome way to integrate their legacy video room systems into Hangouts and a new paradigm.

While not in the announcement, a potential extension of this offer is the use of this type of gateway as a generic WebRTC gateway for legacy systems. It seems a logical extension that this could be used by the emerging WebRTC players as a way to offer an enhanced service to tie legacy systems into a WebRTC conferencing platform. As Vidyo sees their role as a provider of capabilities through their partnerships and APIs, I would not be surprised to see this as an option.

Another interesting market is selling gateway capability to enterprises directly to let users on legacy video systems go out to meetings using WebRTC. If we see an emergence of business applications and solutions with WebRTC emerging in 2014, it may be that having a few ports of gateways between the enterprise and the Internet WebRTC world would be desirable. Another advantage is that this enables Vidyo (or someone else with a similar offer) to manage much of the security through the gateway.

In discussions with the Vidyo team, it is clear that this is both a full transcoding gateway as well as an MCU to deal with the multiple streams that are normally sent in parallel in the routed Hangouts world by providing a mixed output to the legacy device. Therefore, it will have the latency characteristics of legacy video (300-400 msec latency or more), so much of the value of the routed solution used in Hangouts or the peer-to-peer WebRTC world will be lost for participants joining with a legacy system.

However, until the traditional room systems vendors like Polycom or Cisco offer a WebRTC capability directly in the room system, or the new low-cost vendors like Tely Labs or Aver make low-cost WebRTC room systems, the Vidyo option is a great way to enable all of the legacy systems to participate, first in Hangouts, and hopefully in WebRTC in general. At least the quality will be similar to that achieved in current legacy systems.