Integrating video functionality into web conferences is the new hot topic in online collaboration and many vendors are promoting their new video HD functionalities. Those of you that are tingling with excitement brace yourselves: here’s the reality check.
Let’s start with the basics of online collaboration. The paradigm here is that you want to share your virtual workspace, the center of your activities with others: your desktop – and yes, some might only want to share documents via their browser, which is fine, too. Now, along comes HD video, allowing you to share documents while listening to each other and actually seeing each other in high-res. Well ain’t that just a peach? No its not.
Having up to six participants displayed next to the desktop you want to see can be quite a distraction. And honestly, if someone is introducing a new product via web conference does it really matter what the presenter looks like? Shouldn’t the focus be on the presentation?
The most likely usage scenario for video conferencing is within teams whose members are situated at multiple locations. Skype and iChat enable video conferencing in such a scenario already today and it does make sense for web conferencing providers to include the video functionality for these cases. Next to such internal meetings of globally spread teams video conferencing can also make sense in a one-to-many scenario, i.e. one person presents to an audience and appears in a small window on the viewers’ screens. But then again that could just end up being a distraction.
From a technical perspective delivering HD video conferencing is possible thanks to the widespread accessibility of broadband. BUT: just as with audio conferencing there is one major setback. Not everybody has a decent webcam, or any webcam at all. So just as with VoIP some users might be excluded simply because the peripheral equipment needed is not in place.
The main driver of video conferencing is the quality of video and we predict that usage will increase, although mainly in familiar surroundings with your colleagues and not with your customer you are trying to impress with your presentation. And lets face it, this does have another huge advantage: If you slept on your hair funny right before your big presentation nobody will know…