I visited the Packet 8 booth at the Consumer Electronics Show. Tried the Packet 8 videophone, a product that has been having some modest success via direct website sales but has frankly not wowed them at retail. The phone was stocked at New York's J&R Music World last year- but didn't exactly fly off the shelves.
One of the marketing folks told me that for now, the priority will still be direct sales.
Then I flashed back in my mind to last year's CES, when Vonage announced it would be releasing a video phone in conjunction with Viseon.
Uh, hello? Can you see me now? Not here yet.
So I have been processing all this information and trying to determine what the problem is with VoIP video phones. As I see it, there are four obstacles to acceptance of VoIP videophones:
The fact that they haven't been a hit at retail tells me that they are a long, long way to acquring the buzz among tech "influencers" that would enable such sets to cross the chasm from "cool" to "necessary."
Why buy a dedicated video phone when, for a pittance, you can purchase a Webcam and use it in conjunction with any one of several free or extremely inexpensive softphone services? I write often about the emerging threat to pure-play VoIP companies from IM-based PC-to-PSTN services. While you can use Packet8's videophone via their own, new softphone, Packet 8 has a disadvantage in competing against newly enabled IM-based video communications offered by providers with tens of millions of users. I am talking about AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Skype.
VoIP videophones are not a substitute for more robust collaboration tools used by enterprises. That's because they are not well-integrated with applications likely to be used in workgroup collaboration sessions.
VoIP videophones are no substitute for larger conference and presentation media form factors. Enterprise power users are not going to ditch their satellite dishes in favor of VoIP videophones. Not for quite some time, anyway.