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The Power of Video Conferencing: ITEXPO West Interview

August 26, 2011

The evolution of technology is a fascinating trend to watch as market segments change to embrace new opportunities. To better measure these changes and their impact, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently spoke with Paul Baron of SPIRIT Technologies Inc. in anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO West event. When asked about market segment evolution, Baron points to the mainstreaming of video conferencing thanks to Internet bandwidth penetration growth and matured VVoIP technology. As for the next disruptive force in technology, Baron points to on-the-go voice conferencing available across multiple screens.

Baron believes that video conferencing is an ideal service for the cloud and the cloud model development is a big driver for both cloud SaaS and mini clouds for large corporations. Common requests SPIRIT receives include support for all PC and mobile platforms and integration with other business functions. Baron also points to social media as constantly adopting new features for a rich communication experience. He believes that Google+ will be bigger than Facebook and that video conferencing on any terminal device allows all employees to be always on-line.

When asked his opinion on the mobile operating system war, Baron highlights that iOS and Android appear to be the winners, switching leadership as new updates or devices release. As for HTML5, Baron points to the great new world of Google Chrome applications that will be enabled as a result. For the ITEXPO West show, Baron anticipates there will be excitement surrounding branded video conferencing services. At the event, he plans to present a session on “Making Telepresence and Video Conferencing Work”.

Their entire conversation follows:

How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?

The major driver of videoconferencing is Internet bandwidth penetration growth and matured VVoIP (Voice and Video over IP) technology that has been transformed from a staff for geeks to an absolute mainstream (see VVoLTE and enterprise communications). The lower cost benefits and high quality of cloud-based HD software videoconferencing solutions has also been a key differentiator for adoption versus more expensive hardware based systems.

What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?

The efficiency of our minds often does not correlate with our geographical location. On-the-go videoconferencing available across multiple screens (e.g. mobile, tablet, desktop) is the reality of the near future. All developed countries are moving to the new corporate concept: remote or virtual workers, no offices, meaning everything is available online for videoconferencing meetings, real-time collaboration and document sharing.

How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?

Videoconferencing is an ideal service for the cloud. The cloud model development is a big driver for both cloud SaaS and mini clouds for large corporations. And the cost benefits are a key differentiator with little or no compromise of the conference experience or quality. 

What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?

The main issues are:

  • support for all PC and mobile platforms and partially managed IP networks
  • integration with other business functions as well as software and hardware systems

SPIRIT's VideoMost.com end user product provides a cross-network, cross-platform and cross-device videoconferencing platform based on industry standard IP communication protocols (SIP, XMPP) ready for integration with standard videoconferencing equipment. SPIRIT developer solutions (TeamSpirit Voice&Video Engine SDK) allow telcos and service providers to implement their own HD VVoIP/VVoLTE services for generating revenues from 4G networks.

How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies?

Social media is constantly adopting new features for a rich communication experience –videoconferencing is now a “must have” feature and one of the most often requested capabilities. SPIRIT has already received many requests from social media resources looking to integrate videoconferencing in their social networks or communities.

Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?

It looks like it will. Why? Because Google learned the sad lesson of Google Wave and has released the ‘next great thing’ leveraging those experiences and capitalizing on its advertising-driven revenue model, versus simply user adoption.

As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility? What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?

Videoconferencing on any terminal device allows all employees to be always on-line – no matter what network or equipment they are using. SPIRIT's VideoMost.com product provides video communications to all staff members who collaborate in workgroups, hold and participate in meetings, are involved in intensive business travel, telecommute or attend distant trainings. VideoMost.com makes co-working more efficient, personal and visual, while reducing travel expenses and increasing employee productivity.

SPIRIT's core technologies efficiently resolve mobile fragmentation issues by providing a complete, fully interoperable cross-platform communication solution. End-users do not have to care whether it’s a PC, Mac, Apple, Motorola, Samsung, HTC or Nokia phone on the other end. Of course WEB option is fully supported and available as well.

How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out?

At the current moment, iOS and Android seem to be the winners of this war, switching the leadership occasionally with the timing of their OS updates or new device releases. No doubt iOS offers the most comfortable environment for the developers and enjoys the most extensive applications libraries, while unbelievable Android fragmentation seems to be only the beginning for Google’s issues in the mobile space they start to own. While the b2c software vendors are intended to support as many platforms as possible to stay with the trend, b2b vendors tend to concentrate on the growing popularity of Android and iOS, with a skeptic eye on the struggle for market share between RIM and WP7, which are still severely lagging and essentially in standby mode for the most part. SPIRIT is currently focusing on providing full VVoIP support for all popular iOS, Android and WP7 devices.

Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?

Though all leading browsers are planned to support HTML5, the most anticipated thing about it is the great new world of the Google Chrome applications. The majority of Google-driven technologies have deserved to be called the game changer. However it’s hard to assume that other browsers will stand by and do nothing but look at Chrome's success. Today in the era of cloud computing, there are plenty of software solutions working right from the web browser. For some simple technologies, HTML5 may make life easier. The more resource-demanding ones, like high quality videoconferencing, are still doubtful about the stability of working only from the help of HTML5.

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?

Today's service providers (telco carriers and cable operators) are struggling to keep existing subscribers and gain new ones with fierce competition coming from all directions. The battle for content and subscriber ownership is heating up. For example, the OTT (Over The Top) providers like Amazon and Netflix are taking away traditional TV viewership, and VoIP providers like Skype and Google are rapidly taking away voice minutes.

For fear of becoming just a fat pipe, service providers all feel enormous pressure to attract and retain subscribers, requiring them to offer new and valuable services to the their subscribers. Service providers own the last mile to the home and to small and medium businesses, placing them in a unique position to capitalize quickly by offering meaningful services to their subscribers that bring in new revenue streams, such as cloud services and their own branded videoconferencing services.

What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session and why should attendees be sure to attend?

With videoconference solutions becoming ubiquitous across consumer and enterprise desktops and devices, “Making Telepresence and Video Conferencing Work” (Thursday, 9/15/2011, 10:00-10:45am) is sure to be an entertaining and informative conference session, providing insight into the collaboration technologies available to service providers, resellers and end-users. We’ll address interoperability, features, cost benefits, and resources required to evaluate, adopt and deploy these solutions.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell