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Desktop Videoconferencing ? Users? Perspective

Desktop videoconferencing is now being used by many organizations, but still only trialed by others who feel they haven’t worked out all the issues with group videoconferencing and are concerned about an organization-wide roll-out of desktop video.  The results of a recent surveyed conducted by TRI, in which responses were received from over 500 users of desktop videoconferencing, indicate that 93% of the respondents plan to implement desktop videoconferencing units for more than a pilot, although 43% will be doing so in a yet to be determined time frame. 

Customers are clearly interested in desktop videoconferencing and those who are using it or have trialed it have definite opinions on what is needed in the marketplace.

Desktop videoconferencing is viewed by customers as convenient and easy to use.  They like the personal nature of the technology and that they don’t have to leave their office.  Being able to collaborate on documents was a real plus to 72% of the respondents, several of whom indicated that document sharing was the true benefit, not the video.

Those planning to increase the number of units installed found that successful implementation depends on corporate drivers or sponsors of the technology, not department driven applications which tended to result in smaller numbers of units being installed.  Like group videoconferencing, the implementation of desktop videoconferencing needs a corporate champion to drive the implementation of large numbers of units throughout the organization.  Desktop videoconferencing needs to be viewed as a standard communication tool, not as a toy. 

In addition to the standard benefits of group videoconferencing (e.g., improving communications, increasing productivity, reducing travel), users of desktop videoconferencing find that meetings are more spontaneous, desktop videoconferencing is ad hoc (like a telephone call), and using desktop videoconferencing cuts down on isolation, particularly for those not working in a standard office environment (e.g. telecommuters).

While desktop videoconferencing unit purchases have been primarily made by IT or telecommunications departments (due to the need to modify computers or enhance telecommunications circuits), with the advent of more video-ready PCs that have expanded memory and higher bandwidth networks, the purchase decision is becoming more user driven.  This change in the buying process, coupled with a corporate champion, will help fuel the success of desktop videoconferencing usage.  In some organizations there is still the issue of whether management sees desktop videoconferencing as a business tool that can improve productivity and positively impact the bottom line of the organization.

Of course, opportunities for improvement exist.  Customers expressed a need for better multipoint conferencing capability, a larger window on their PC for conferencing, improved audio and video quality, lower price per seat, increased bandwidth to the desktop, and assistance from vendors with applications development and implementation. 

While features and price are important, successful vendors will be those who take the time to work with the customer to understand how desktop videoconferencing will be used once installed and will assist customers with the entire implementation process.  Given the number of different firms offering desktop videoconferencing technology today, the leaders will be those who differentiate themselves from the competition by better addressing user needs, by industry, one user at a time.  Desktop videoconferencing is here to stay.  Its rise to stardom is dependent on application development, implementation support, network connectivity, and price performance.

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