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Desktop Videoconferencing Ready For Wide Use

New technology puts desktop videoconferencing in reach for most enterprises.

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Desktop videoconferencing has the potential to play a more significant role in collaboration and unified communications thanks to the growing popularity of the H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding) codec and compression technology, which makes high-definition videoconferencing over the Internet feasible for business use.

For the 34% of the 463 business technology professionals responding to our May 2011 InformationWeek Desktop Videoconferencing Survey who have desktop videoconferencing in place, and for the additional 10% who told us they planned to deploy within 12 months, the appeal of desktop videoconferencing is simple: improving employee and customer collaboration while reducing travel costs. We also see desktop videoconferencing used extensively for training and corporate communications. Still, desktop videoconferencing deployment lags significantly behind conference room-based videoconferencing--78% of our respondents have conference room systems in place now, despite the fact that they're more expensive and complex. Rooms need to be scheduled, call setup often requires a knowledgeable administrator, cameras are expensive, and multiparty calls require scheduling a bridge.

Where IT is focused on desktop videoconferencing, it's concentrating on PCs--96% of respondents run or will run desktop videoconferencing on Windows. In a distant second place, 39% of respondents run or will run desktop videoconferencing on iPads.

That makes sense because Microsoft has doubled down on desktop video. Its Lync Server 2010 offers the ability to set up desktop videoconferencing, and the company recently closed its $8.6 billion acquisition of Skype, the popular Internet-based videoconferencing service. Beyond Microsoft, nearly every vendor selling a collaboration product or engaged in enterprise telecom, from Avaya to Vidyo, is focused on desktop videoconferencing. With these systems and H.264 SVC, high-quality conferences are possible with nothing but a typical broadband connection, a notebook PC, and a relatively inexpensive webcam.

Think a conference over the Internet automatically equals jitter? Not so; these newer systems may not use less bandwidth, but they do use bandwidth much more effectively, a critical factor. And it's all about the codec.

Why is your company evaluating desktop videoconferencing?

Phil Hippensteel teaches infomration systems at Penn State University. Write to us at

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