VideoMeet: cloud-based video communication

VideoMeet: cloud-based video communication

Summary: "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.

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"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.

Topic: Reviews

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Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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2 comments
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  • Having been around video for years now - and around companies that have innovated in efforts to push the industry forward - it's great to see cloud-based video conferencing services spreading. And good to see you writing about it. Anything that makes it a reality to do ad-hoc video calling in the same way we launch a voice call, is progress. Video is still dominated by the larger vendors, and they seem to have done little so far to make ad-hoc (or for that matter SMB use) a reality. On this point there was also an excellent post by the folks at Vidtel on this earlier this week: http://vidtel.com/community/whats-wrong-with-the-video-conferencing-industry/.

    Indeed we need companies like BJN, Vidtel and others to push video into the true mainstream. People only adopt interface technologies when they have a chance to use them regularly. Once you use video, it gets harder to go back. We should encourage all these companies - and the investors behind them - to keep moving ahead.

    Lastly, I assume this piece is more about pushing education on cloud-based video and less about positioning one competitor versus the other. I do recognize that companies like BJN and Vidtel are competitors, but if video really is the new voice, there will be plenty of room for them and more. To this point, I find it a bit one-sided to suggest that BJN is 'unique' in being both cloud-based and endpoint-agnostic. While I don't know BJN personally, I do know Vidtel and imagine they would counter this point. Same goes for suggesting BJN has such a significant lead. Vidtel has been at this since 2008. And Glowpoint may also think otherwise. The point is all of them are doing more than legacy vendors have done to push video out to the masses.

    It's a good and timely article. The more all of these entrepreneurs can get support and exposure like this, the sooner we will all be using video....more than voice.
    larrylisser
  • @larrylisser Thanks for the feedback; you're quite right to surmise that the article's main point was to inform about developments in cloud-based video communication (using BJN/VideoMeet as the 'handle'). When it comes to positioning competitors against one another, that's a job for a full review, which will follow in due course.
    Charles McLellan