by Vincent Toesca
Since its wider adoption by enterprises and organizations of various sizes, Web conferencing has represented a quantum leap compared with traditional audio-only conference calls. The online meeting experience creates a new level of participant engagement by adding rich data sharing (screensharing, collaborative review of documents) and interactivity tools (chat, live surveys, etc.). Higher participant attention raises the productivity of online meetings, while the combination of live sessions and on-demand access to learning contents increases the retention rate of training sessions administered through tools like Connect Pro.
Through periodic research interviews, we have found that many Connect Pro customers would characterize our solution as “the next best thing to a face-to-face meeting”. This is the result of constant innovation instilled into our product over seven releases to deliver a multi-dimensional environment.
While audio, text-based chat and data sharing are staples of web conferencing tools, video is the one dimension that has been relatively underutilized until now. Two major reasons explain this lower penetration: the slow proliferation of video devices, such as webcams, in the workplace, and the concern of systems administrators around bandwidth utilization. Another reason would be the earlier investment in room-based videoconferencing systems by corporations and the urge to use them as the primary conduit for visual communications, as a way to justify their high acquisition costs and the recurring expenses for servicing them.
From connecting rooms to connecting people
While room-based videoconferencing systems arguably provide good quality video, they have failed to do so in a scalable fashion, financially and operationally. Beyond the cost of installing and maintaining endpoints, IT/IS departments have realized that room-based systems are another complex layer to manage and to integrate with the rest of their communications infrastructure. On the other end, many corporate users often struggle with their sophisticated deployment and convoluted settings.
Leading vendors have recently touted a new generation of videoconferencing solutions, with “Telepresence”, emphasizing high quality at improved compression rates. However, these systems have not overcome the barriers that limit the widespread use of video: complex combination of hardware, software and additional room equipment; price points that make them an elitist solution and the privilege of a few. Finally they still follow the same metaphor consisting in connecting rooms, not users.
A study recently published by Gartner (November 10, 2009) portends that organizations are showing increased interest in video in general, and in video systems that are not bound to a room-centered experience in particular. They are pushing harder for desktop videoconferencing that has a lower cost structure, better reach and less dependence on appliances and infrastructure.
Seeing is believing
The video streaming capabilities provided by Connect Pro make it a strong substitute to supplant these systems down the road, and a much better fit for interpersonal communications. As webcams and built-in video devices are making strong headways into corporate environments, video will become the next frontier of web conferencing systems.
Release after release, and ahead of all competing products, Connect Pro team has supported and improved live video streaming to create more lifelike web meeting experiences and foster ad-hoc collaboration. Seeing the presenters of a webinar, or the instructor conducting a training session over Connect Pro, helps make a more impactful and lasting impression on the target audience.
Built on the Adobe Flash platform, Connect Pro leverages the leading streaming technologies developed by Adobe, currently used to deliver approximately 80 percent of Web video worldwide. Adobe Flash has been designed to provide high-quality streaming, at optimized bitrates, across firewalls. Bandwidth efficiency mitigates administrators’ network-related concerns while cross-firewall delivery extends video meetings to outside participants.
Mass adoption of video by enterprise customers is occurring gradually, but its pace is accelerating. It will increasingly rely on fully software-based videoconferencing solutions that offer lower-cost alternatives to legacy video systems with roughly equivalent levels of quality. With the ubiquitous Flash platform, Connect Pro possesses a foundational asset that we are leveraging as we evolve our webconferencing solution. Stay tuned for richer and more engaging interpersonal and collaborative experiences.