Enterprise Video Conferencing FUD

August 21, 2014

They hit a nerve…

I am easy to get all riled up if you hit the right nerve. This post did it for me. Probably because I was once part of this industry.


Did anyone say FUD? And of the sleaziest kind at that.

It doesn’t really matter who the vendor is – they are all the same. I come from this industry, and the thought processes there are the same all around. Small market with an echo chamber that is hard to resist and get out of.

I’d like to take the arguments in that post apart one by one if you allow me.

Oh, and if you sell enterprise video conferencing, feel free to move on. You aren’t going to be persuaded by this anyway.

Three reasons why we need to pay for video conferencing in enterprises:

1. Conduct a realistic face-to-face meeting

HD video conferencing systems provide high quality video and audio, ensuring a true-to-life experience for users on both ends. Lip movement and speech is perfectly synchronized, and you don’t need to worry about buffering and call-drop issues.

Well, that’s the essence of VoIP as far as I know. WebRTC is built out of a commercial media engine which most of the industry used prior to its acquisition by Google. Heck, even the vendor posting this FUD have used that same media engine before it got acquired.

Anything that uses WebRTC and does a decent job with the backend (most of them do) provides the same “high quality video and audio, ensuring a true-to-life experience for users on both ends”. And you know what? It even provides “Lip movement and speech [that] is perfectly synchronized”.

So why pay?

2. Add up to 25 locations/participants per call

Only business-grade video conferencing can simultaneously support 25 different users, each with true HD video and audio.

I am not really sure what true HD really means. I am all for great quality. But seriously? 25 different users? All bunched up in a single screen? That ends up being 384×216 pixels in resolution for each participant. That’s true HD? And who needs 25 simultaneous users? If they are there, most are going to be inactive anyway.

Extreme cases may require that many. But here are some things to think about:

It is usually said that around 80% of the video calls are point to point. Of the other 20% of the video calls – how many do you think have more than 4 participants? More than 10?

Business-grade video calling needs one thing only – to be crisp and clear for the given task at hand. Frankly, I am getting that today from talky.io (my current favorite). Talky.io is free. And they have a rocket I play with until others arrive. Fits my business needs every day of the week.

When that’s not possible to use, I end up using Skype or Hangouts. With businesses who talk with me. Somehow, they find it ok to use free consumer services for their business.

3. Connect to remote users quickly and safely

When you conduct meetings over “freemium” web services, there’s no way of knowing who might be listening in.

Can you lie more than that please?

“who might be listening in”. To a WebRTC service? Where I know signaling and media are always secure? Where I know media is sent P2P and not via a centralized server? With services that enable me to use ad-hoc links or with a nice little button enabling me to lock the virtual conference room so no additional participants join?

The security argument is both old and false. I have said it before and I’ll say it again – WebRTC is the most secure VoIP technology out there. The smart vendors who build services on top of it makes security seamless in their offering.

Why is it important?

I think (and hope) that customers are seeing beyond this FUD already. It has been going on for years, and now with WebRTC and the promise it brings, with all the new services that crop like mushrooms, there are new business models and solutions available out there.

The problem to me is the fact that the vendors themselves aren’t taking notice. They still live inside their ivory towers, thinking their deep thoughts instead of going out there and seeing how the world is changing.

It is time for the incumbents to think seriously about how the world has changed and to see how they can fit their technology and business models to this brave new world we live in.

And please – stop FUDing us in every turn of the road.

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  1. I agree with a lot of this but I feel the following needs to be clarified:

    > And who needs 25 simultaneous users?

    So, you obviously don’t :). Fine. Others do though. IETF or XSF WG meetings, Online training sessions, all hands on deck company meetings, open source project dev meetings …. there are many other use cases. The fact that they are less than 20% or 10% of all calls doesn’t make them insignificant at all … (not to mention that lack of affordable quality tools is one of the reasons why they aren’t prevalent yet).

    Also, a meeting of 25 doesn’t mean you have to actually lay them all in your screen at a 5×5 layout. You can do that with a Hangout-style layout and only show thumbnails for half the participants while hiding the other half… or do it in a bunch of other ways that still give you HD for one or two main speakers.

    That said, there’s nothing that makes WebRTC incapable of handling such meetings. Quite on the contrary.

    So in other words, I do agree that being able to host 25+ meetings is NOT an advantage for conventional Enterprise Conf Systems, but the reason is that WebRTC can handle them perfectly well too.

        1. Heck, and Vidyo router software running on hardware like that NUC can orchestrate 4 of those 25-participant sessions simultaneously. Puts some burden on the endpoints, but presumably nobody will be running Minecraft during AHOD company meetings, anyway.

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