Given the nature of my daily job — I'm constantly taking notes during interviews or phone briefings — I can find video to be a little bit of an obstacle during interviews. It's my job to write down my observations, not necessarily look my interview subject in the "eye" during the entire encounter. That can be off-putting.
That said, I am a fan of using video technologies to supplement meetings: it's wonderful for a remote worker like me to be able to "see" some of the disembodied voices that I quote here and in other places, if they don't mind that I can't maintain eye contact the whole time. That's exactly what the marketing and sales team at Blue Jeans Network, a three-and-a-half-year-old startup that offers videoconferencing as a cloud-hosted service, loves to hear.
The Blue Jeans service supports a wide range of endpoint technologies including applications or solutions from Cisco, Google, Lifesize, Microsoft, and Polycom (among others) -- all during a single meeting, which is a big accomplishment. But the company's bigger rallying cry is simplicity: Blue Jeans wants to make it as easy to place a video call as it is to place an audio call, said Aspen Moulden, channel marketing manager for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.
The company must be doing something right: more than 1 million people have used its platform to hold video meetings. About one-quarter of them are small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, according to statistics that Blue Jeans pulled at my request. Some of its top verticals in this segment include food businesses (such restaurants or wineries), and services companies seeking to offer a more personal touch than their competitors.
One small company that has benefited enormously from the Blue Jeans platform is Dishup Today, an "e-kitchen learning service" that brings cooking lessons into your home.
To get a sense of how the technology works, I agreed to a session with the amiable Chef Keith Darling. Aside from some initial logistical manuvering, so that my laptop wouldn't be splattered by my carmelized onions, the video encounter was seamless -- no jitter or annoying pixelation, even though I was running off a wireless connection back to my cable Internet connection upstairs.
Chris Moffa, founder of Dishup Today, said he considered four different video platforms upon which to build his site's classes but picked Blue Jeans because it was the simplest one to use and didn't require his team to download all sorts of proprietary components to run. The site hosts anywhere from 40 to 60 cooking lessons per month, with small groups of students on each session; Dishup integrated the video software with Trumba, an online scheduling service, to manage the registration process, Moffa said.
Dishup Today also uses Blue Jeans to interview potential instructors (kind of like a live screen test!), according to the case study writeup on the Blue Jeans Web site.
Blue Jeans has taken an "All You Can Meet" approach to subscription pricing, in the form of an unlimited-use site license that allows up to 25 participants per meeting. The fees are based on the number of active users (those who host at least one meeting per month), and range from $50 per user per month down to $10 per user per month, depending on the size of the deployment.
This week, Blue Jeans is adding real-time video sharing capabilities to its offering. The feature, free through Aug. 15, 2003, for existing customers, will allow organizations to upload video files, and then watch them with other participants during a meeting. The idea is to allow people in different locations to evaluate training videos, marketing materials and other video content more effectively. The new option allows up to 50 gigabytes of storage for video files.