More synchronicity in the hot, hot, hot world of unified conferencing and collaboration. I saw three separate press releases released today that had mutually supportive messages.
From the UK comes a brief news snippet on AV Interactive. It says that a British videoconferencing network supplier did a survey (and yes, you should be wary of self-serving in-house survey results!) finding that while 80% of respondents said that communication was the most important element to keep a business running efficiently, only 13% of businesses using remote workers supply them with videoconferencing services. No big surprise so far. I've already written about the low adoption rate of dedicated videoconferencing, and the home user is the last to get hooked up. But it also said that only 15% provide a web conference solution. That is a surprise, considering how easy it is to get an enterprise use license and the easy operation of the software over a standard broadband line and an internet browser. In an argument I'll come back to, 75% of respondents agreed that collaborative communication technologies would contribute towards more productive home or remote working. The use of the word "agreed" in that sentence makes me suspect that the question was phrased in a leading manner. But never mind.
The second release came from industry analyst company Frost & Sullivan. They say that "Unified Conferencing and Collaboration Holds Huge Potential for Videoconferencing to Reach Critical Mass." They point out that web conferencing and audio conferencing have successfully attached as associated services and that "videoconferencing will find far more success if it integrates with audio and web conferencing."
Then I saw a press release from Marratech, a Swedish-based collaboration software vendor. They say they have created a cross-platform collaboration tool that uses the H.264 video standard to deliver higher quality video at lower bit rates. They say they can interface with traditional video conferencing equipment and broadcast down to standard web conferencing reception speeds. If so, that should be a nice step forward in this web/video unified collaboration front.
Is all this video and web collaboration the thing that is going to make remote working more productive? (I said I'd get back to that argument!) I have my doubts. Video in a web conference is most often a nice to have (at best) or a distraction (at worst). I have written about the dangers of using home video cameras in poor conditions. Most remote meetings don't benefit from seeing the faces of the other players (usually in tiny windows where you can't make them out very clearly). Obviously there are exceptions and times when you can get a big boost from video content. But I am a bit more excited about the other collaborative work being done in remote PC access and true two-way desktop sharing with web conferencing (see press releases announcing a partnership between Alltel and Citrix and the launch of the WebEx/AOL partner product labeled Link2PC). There's also the combination of instant messaging and web conferencing, as well as shared calendaring and other collaborative office functions. But I've talked about them before and this entry is already far too long! Suffice to say that collaborative communications is going to go crazy in the next 18 months.