Telework, Shmelework, An Open Letter to Marissa Mayer

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Photo borrowed from zdnet.com

Dear Ms. Mayer –

Well you certainly got everyone’s attention !  A lot of opinions are flying about whether you are being “anti-green,” doing a self-selecting RIF, making a sensible business decision, are out of touch with non-executive struggles, blah, blah, blah.  You’re no dummy (or dare I say Yahoo?) and I am sure you thought about this before making the call.

Our question is: do you have the wrong telework policy or the wrong telework technology?

A lot of …read more…

Microsoft Acquires Skype — Video Collaboration World Yawns

The twittering began a while ago, then came the announcement that an announcement would come, and now…it is announced.

Microsoft will acquire Skype for $8.5 Billion in cash.

Good for Microsoft to get access to the Skype user community with hundreds of millions of loyalists.  Good for Skype to have the 800 lb. gorilla in software as its partner to provide marketing channels and deep pockets.

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A client asked for our thoughts.  Here are what come to mind first:

1) Culture Clash —

  • Skype is a peer to peer product developed to help people go around the price-gouging of telecom monopolies via internet and gave its service away for free, for years and still does
  • Microsoft develops something for everyone, enterprise wide, is the de facto standard for many of its markets and has for years been the subject of claims that it is “The Great Satan” or “Evil Empire” in the software world for abusing its market power and ruthless commitment to enhancing its own profits

2) Free — Many people use Skype because it is free and you can access millions of friends, family, etc.  Does Microsoft intend to keep it free?

3) Usability — Skype is simple, easy to get started with and has lots of nice features.  Cross your fingers that Skype’s usability influences Microsoft’s development path and not the other way around.

4) Control — Skype does not have a feature-rich IT control suite, user permissions, rights, bandwidth constraints, domains, profiles, etc.  Expect Microsoft to layer a lot of that functionality in.  Will that make Skype less attractive to users even as it becomes more palatable to IT and Network managers?

5) Security — Skype has some significant, and often-discussed security vulnerabilities as well as the basic challenge of peer-to-peer architecture.  Add Skype (a big target) to Microsoft (the biggest target there is) and you can expect a series of security attacks while newly integrated products are rolled out by Microsoft.  Hopefully no one gets hurt.

6) Quality — Neither Skype nor Microsoft has a high quality video communication and collaboration solution.  So what changes that will be good from the users perspective?

7) Feature Overlap — Many of Skype’s features overlap with Microsoft Lync, Kinect and other tools.  Do they merge, remain parallel, or  something in-between?

8) Reality — Press releases are great at talking about the opportunities.  The hard part is knitting together the gaps in technology, philosophy, marketing, pricing, packaging, distribution, support…

 

Will they be successful ?  Only time will tell.  What do you think?

Video Bridge To Everywhere

There are lots of high quality video conferencing systems in use today, from vendors likePolycomTandbergLifeSizeVSeeVidyo and VeaMea (now swy|me).

But if the person who you want to call isn’t part of your network, and doesn’t have your brand/model video conferencing system, what can you do ?

Hint:

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If you said “Go to Paris and leave your video conferencing troubles behind you,” it is understandable, but not the credited response.  If you thought “Get a bridge!” you shoul Read more

Facts & Fairy Tales: Software Video Conferencing & Collaboration

An interesting discussion has popped up on LinkedIn in the Video Conferencing Professionals Group.  Someone asked for advice about software-based video conferencing solutions and said he wanted to make a list of what was available in the marketplace.

Many users and vendors chimed in, offering names of packages, points of view, experiences, all the things that one might expect.  And then the discussion heated up a little (as one might expect ?).

My read is that there is a basic distinction that is being lost in the noise when people answer the question: “What is Telepresence?”

Telepresence engineers

If you ask an engineer who works on video, it has a pretty specific meaning and it has implications for standards, codecs, lines of resolution, bandwidth, and more.  This point of view led one contributor to write:

“If we want to be honest, many companies are very deceptive about their features, approaches, functionality and pricing —

To illustrate.  One company on this very thread suggests that its a Software based solution that promotes ease of use — high definiton and H.264 for multi-party conferencing and operable as a SaaS or cloud based solution —

If you believe that, then you should also believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy.”

In reality, he may be right.  H.264 usually means a lot of bandwidth PER CONNECTION, and a 10-way call = 10x a lot of bandwidth.  So is the company peddling fairy tales ?  Since they were not identified by name it is hard to have an opinion.

But what if the company in question said: “We’re flexible, we let you work with the tools and devices you want to work with, we can work in a cloud/SaaS model, we can do telepresence quality, we have collaboration tools, and more !”  This may all be true, just not all true AT THE SAME TIME.  Is it misleading, deceptive, etc. ?

I say no.  Here’s why.  Back to the question of “What is Telepresence?”  If you ask 1 million people who are NOT video engineers…

Telepresence Definition #2

…you will get a variety of answers from an empty stare and shoulder shrug, to guesses about holograms and video conferencing.  99.99% don’t care about the standards and codecs and such.  (Disclaimer: statistic completely made up for emphasis, not empirically derived)

What do the 99.99% care about ?  Communication and Collaboration. 

  • Can I sit down at my desk (or conference room) and use a tool to communicate with people?
  • Is it intuitive enough for “everyone” to use?
  • Can I invite people who don’t have my brand of system into a meeting?
  • Can I reduce travel?
  • Can I overcome the limitations of voice-only communication?
  • Will it work reliably?
  • Can I manage it?
  • Can I share my desktop?
  • Can I chat?
  • Can I schedule a meeting?
  • Can I run a Webinar?
  • How do I know the other party is ready?
  • How will this integrate into my existing networks/security policies/applications?
  • How much does it cost?

The 99.99% don’t actually care about what the technology is, they care about what it does.

Who really benefits when you put true high definition on a video-phone with a 7″ screen?

Better question: Who benefits when you put sharp, clear video on laptops, desktops, tablets, in conference rooms and clouds and share communication capabilities among all these platforms?  A boatload of people.  (Inappropriately graphic statement avoided)

So back to the question: “What is Telepresence?”  Is it the definition that the .01% know to be correct and that the name was invented to distinguish, or SHOULD IT BE the “like I am there” communication capability that the 99.99% seek and find regularly in both traditional and software-based solutions: the ability to project their presence, via video conferencing and collaboration tools.  I pick the latter, but then I am a bit biased since VeaMea develops and markets a video conferencing and collaboration platform that some might call a fairy tale.

Bottom Line: if you want to separate the myth from the reality, and decide for yourself, you cantry it.

Software-based Video Conferencing

In the world of video conferencing, most people think of fancy conference rooms filled with expensive equipment.

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But a new way of thinking about this technology is emerging…

Software-based video conferencing, uses the processing power of the hardware you already have, and offers the ability to extend conferencing and collaboration outside the four walls of the conference room.

Technology

So why wouldn’t you use the hardware you have, the IP network you have, and add software to manage the video communication and collaboration functions?

Today’s best solutions have AES 256 encryption, secure client-server architecture and business grade toolsets that enable full collaboration in addition to simple video conferencing.

What makes a software solution better ?  By the time a company has designed hardware, manufactured it and put it in the field, it has already started to become obsolete (e.g. new processors, new graphics cards, faster network interfaces are available).  A hardware-based solution can also be needlessly expensive: if you already have enough processing power, then buying someone’s dedicated video hardware is redundant.

Software can be expanded and improved on a daily basis and relies on system/network resources that are in place — so when you upgrade a server or network switch, your video conferencing and collaboration software automatically gets upgraded too.

Real companies, companies like yours, are deriving real benefits from using secure, software-based collaboration and conferencing.  Benefits like reduced travel expenditures, improved business sustainability, ability to offer TeleWork, reduced real estate costs, and a Continuity of Operations infrastructure that people become familiar with long before there is an emergency.

But the best reason to consider software-based video conferencing is the dramatically lower Total Cost of Ownership.  More functionality at lower cost, what’s not to like ?