From Nerdgasm to Nerd Rage to Bitter Nerd Acceptance

From Nerdgasm to Nerd Rage to Bitter Nerd Acceptance

Nerd RageI’m not easily excited about tech announcements.

I’ve seen enough promising “breakthroughs” over the years to know that every company press release, every gushy CEO chatting up their latest breakthrough product, every ostentatious fanboy peacocking their latest gear – has to be taken with a huge truckload of sodium chloride.

Still. I get caught up in hype like everyone else. Against my better judgement and disappointing past experiences.

This week I was geeked out about the announcement from Google that interop between Google+ Hangouts and h.323 endpoints is coming soon (from Vidyo) – at the low cost of $99 per port per month. Cloud based interop was promised at the reasonably low price of $149 per port per month (about half the cost of other SaaS interop services out there). The new product is called VidyoH2O (Hangout to Others).

Interoperability between h.323 (the tech that drives room size HD videoconferencing) and endpoint silos with mass audience appeal – Skype, FaceTime, Google+ Hangouts – can literally change the videoconferencing landscape overnight.

Being able to have a Google+ Hangout on the same call with room sized h.323 codecs promises opening boardrooms and classrooms up to affordable Internet-scale webinars, recording meetings to Youtube, and being able to hack together highly accessible and customizable virtual conference and teaching spaces.

Maybe not the Holy Grail. But a big freakin’ deal nonetheless.

I should have known better. My hopes were high. Until I spoke with a rep from Vidyo.

Yes – the $99 per port per month price is correct. BUT – the device that you have to have on premise has a five-port minimum. So, the price for interop is really $495 per month total, not $99. Disappointment one.

Yes – a cloud version is available – but it still requires a device somewhere in the mix, and there is still a five port minimum, turning $149 per port per month into $745 per month total. Disappointment deux.

And yes, there is an announced availability of March 31 for VidyoH2O – but the service / device isn’t even in Beta yet. Six weeks before shipping. And the thing isn’t in Beta.

Strike Three.

Look. Vidyo’s relationship to Google+ Hangouts is foundational, they have a solid track record, and I have no doubt that – ultimately – they will pull VidyoH2O off. Maybe even spectacularly.

But VidyoH2O isn’t “baked” yet. My long experience as a product manager tells me this announcement smells of “rushed to market.

My premature nerdgasm has deflated to nerd rage to bitter-but-wiser nerd acceptance.

Sadly, my exuberance has been stifled in the realization that the product seemingly isn’t ready, the pricing model is geared at a level out of reach for education and many small businesses… and it may be many more months before my dream of uber-simplified (and affordable) h.323-to-Google+ interoperability across my little liberal arts campus are realized.

In the large scheme of things, this isn’t even a thing.

Still. I’m surprised at how let down I am.

Serenity Now.


Room Size Videoconferencing, or Google Hangouts – Can’t We Just Get Along?

Room Size Videoconferencing, or Google Hangouts – Can’t We Just Get Along?

An oft-heard question in videoconferencing land: when do I use a room sized system, and when do I need to use Google Hangouts?

In the past, the usual answer is: use a room sized system when you want great quality, and use Google Hangouts when quality doesn’t matter.

Well. That answer is wrong. Not because room systems aren’t high quality. It’s because the question is usually asked outside the context of a solid use case for why you want to use videoconferencing to begin with. What is the problem you are wishing to solve.

Google Hangouts (and their recorded, broadcast version, Google Hangouts on Air) offer 720p HD video with noise cancelation. The quality is great, and offers (I argue) a more personal experience than room sized systems, because you can actually see the person that you are talking to, in detail mostly missing from room sized systems. Hangouts allow meeting participants to meet from where it is most convenient for them, rather than having to gather everyone together in one place. And more often than not, participants are better heard using Hangouts than when participating from room sized systems.

So… why use room sized systems at all?

Well, sometimes everyone must meet in a conference room. The boss requires it. Maybe everyone is away from their own devices. The system is setup in a classroom. Or maybe it is used as a collaborative space between two teams separated geographically. All these are great use cases for when room systems are appropriate.

The important thing to note that it is use case, NOT quality, that is (and should be) the decision driver.

With videoconferencing being a much higher friction activity than any other form of synchronous communications, it’s even more vital that you use a video platform most appropriate for the task at hand.

One-on-one video interview? Google Hangout.

Two or Three on one interview? Google Hangout.

Video class? Seminar: Google Hangout; remote lecture: room size.

Business meeting? Whatever the boss wants. But seriously – nine times out of ten, Google Hangouts will allow a much more satisfying, more personal, experience – than staring at an indecipherable set of pea-heads at the end of a long conference table 1,000 miles away.

I have very explicitly tried to stay away from the entire question of cost in this discussion. Needless to say, oftentimes just the mere mention of spending $30K-$80K on specialized video codecs for a single room is enough to make the decision for you.

Polycom, Cisco, Radvision, Vidyo, Mondopad… all of these systems are facing challenging times ahead, with the consumerization and commoditization of free high quality videoconferencing from Google. It’s only going to get worse for them, unless they can find a way to offer unique recording or cloud services that allow them to be something other than very expensive and hard-to-implement point solutions.

What are the odds of that happening?

I’d say, slim to none.

But until then – can’t we just get along?