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Dispatch From Barcelona: Mobile Video Is Here

From videoconferencing to video chat to mobile TV, mobile devices can now do it all

Mobile video, once just a novelty, has arrived. Users with mobile handsets and tablets can now participate in video chats and videoconferences as either endpoints or originators. Video capture, while still of the "shaky cam" variety, has also improved. Even mobile TV is rapidly evolving. At Mobile World Congress, mobile video technology was everywhere.

The application with the most business appeal is videoconferencing. High-quality telepresence, for instance, is becoming affordable, and during the recession some companies invested in room-based systems to save on travel. Meantime, low-cost systems from the likes of Polycom and Vidyo began to challenge high-end systems from Cisco and others.

Presence technology like Microsoft OCS and Skype ushered in a more rogue Webcam experience, and Cisco WebEx and screen sharing products from Adobe and others got mixed in, and suddenly video chats and impromptu video meetings became the norm.

The natural progression, then, was to add the mobile end point, at least as a viewing client. The tablet, with its bigger form factor, became the perfect target device, and now the front-facing cameras outfitting most new smartphones and tablets have made these devices better content originators as well.

However, the technical challenges aren't minor. Those big in-room systems are expensive for a reason, and part of their value proposition is the ability to manage bandwidth, especially when you're not sure if a client is coming in over Wi-Fi or 3G or worse, as well as the ability to control and manage multiple parties, encode and decode fat video streams extremely fast, and deal with other data like screen sharing.

One of my favorite products is Fuze Box, which is adding tablets to its list of supported devices, along with smartphones. Its first iterations dealt mostly with screen sharing, with integrated chat and audio; subsequent versions introduced video. At Mobile World Congress, the vendor demonstrated Fuze video, aimed at and originating from Motorola's forthcoming Xoom Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablet. We got a very brief demonstration before the venue's Wi-Fi became saturated. This product is getting competitive with Cisco's WebEx.

My colleague Gina Smith also got a demonstration of OoVoo's video chat product, which works across PCs, Macs, and now Apple iOS and Android mobile devices. This application is available now in the Android market, and will be available in April on iTunes, the company says. It allows up to six video participants and works over Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G. You can see the demonstration directly below.

Vidyo's videoconference technology is a bit more hefty. Its technology scales from room and desktop-based systems down to mobile handsets and tablets, all at a fraction of the cost of high-end telepresence systems. Vidyo has even begun making more customized, vertical industry versions of its product, like for telehealth applications. At Mobile World Congress, Vidyo had some interesting demonstrations, including live 4G multi-content gaming between Barcelona and the U.S. and a videoconference between passengers driving LTE-equipped Audi A8 automobiles. We got a demonstration of the company's multi-point technology running on a variety of mobile devices, which you can watch in the video directly below.

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