"Video is the next voice", according to Deutsche Telecom, which has recently introduced a cloud-based 'video communication' service called VideoMeet — hence the interest in promoting how easy to use and cost-effective videoconferencing (or rather, communication) is becoming. VideoMeet is a repackaged version of a service introduced last year by California-based startup Blue Jeans Network (BJN), with a few added extras.
Industry veterans Ian Vickerage (MD of distributor Imago Group) and Bob Rickwood (a former Polycom EMEA VP and now a consultant with Deutsche Telecom) came into ZDNet's London offices today to fill us in about what they claim is a 'game changing' offering.
BJN, which has datacentres in California, Holland and (soon) Asia, has the currently unique distinction of being both cloud-based and endpoint-agnostic: all you need is an internet connection (minimum bandwidth 384Kbps) and a suitable device on the end of it — be it a high-end conference-room solution, a desktop PC or laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Among the supported connection methods are Skype (Windows/Mac OS, iOS or Android), Google Video Chat, Microsoft Lync and SIP/H.323-compliant systems from the likes of Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize (part of Logitech).
BJN's 'vision', on which it began work two years ago with $18 million of funding, was to become a cloud-based transcoding engine connecting all published videoconferencing standards. Having achieved that, and been open for business for nearly a year, Vickerage and Redwood reckon that the company has a significant lead — despite the appearance of similar-sounding solutions like Vidtel and Glowpoint.
Deutsche Telecom adds a number of distinctly European features to the BJN offering, such as ISDN and multi-language support, additional firewall-traversal functionality — as well as a certain credibility in the enterprise space.
For businesses, the draw is the chance to make better use of previously user-hostile and proprietary video conferencing equipment, adding 'bring your own device' flexibility that enables mobile and home-based workers to participate in face-to-face discussions with colleagues or clients. Conferences are set up via email invites, with clickable hotlinks for different connection methods. Once in the meeting, which can have up to 25 participants, all the usual screen layout options are available — the current speaker full screen (Active Speaker), the current speaker highlighted with up to five other participants shown as thumbnails (Active Presence), or all participants on-screen in a grid (Constant Presence).
If the video meeting is sensitive, you can invoke 128-bit AES encryption — although of course connection methods are then limited to those that support AES-128.
As far as costs are concerned, Bob Rickwood compared a VideoMeet subscription to a "typical [on-premises] infrastructure solution" capable of supporting up to 25 users. While the former might cost around £1,300 a month (and support up to four concurrent 25-user conferences), the latter might cost £125,000 upfront for the MCU (Multipoint Control Unit) and £1,500 a month for maintenance.
On the face of it, VideoMeet has a lot going for it. Next, we're going to have a hands-on look at the service, and report back in the shape of a full review.