Hi-Def Video Conferencing: Worth the Wait? - InformationWeek
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Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
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Hi-Def Video Conferencing: Worth the Wait?

High-definition video promises to change the video conferencing market. That’s because HD video, with roughly twice the vertical & horizontal picture resolution of traditional systems, is the first significant improvement to video since color replaced black & white. High-definition video resolution (1280 x 720 pixels at 30 frames per second) delivers nearly 10 times the quality of existing videoconferencing systems, which are limited to 352 x 288 pixels. And in many cases, the video is better at any bandwidth, offering true, high definition resolution at 1Mbps, DVD quality at 512Kbps, and cable TV quality at 384Kbps.

What’s more, HD video offers hi-fidelity, CD-quality audio and a 30-degree viewing angle (vs. its forerunner’s 10-degree angle) to better match the human visual field. The intended result is that people appear true-to-life, and the participants get a true “you are there” experience. But does it work as promised?

You bet.

As an analyst, I see a lot of new technologies that are presented as game-altering but which, upon viewing, leave me underwhelmed. HD video is not one of them. Rather, all it takes is one viewing to see that the new technology adds a level of clarity and perspective that literally change the way video is experienced. That’s great news for all video conferencing users, but it’s especially good for certain industries in which visual detail is critical to communications—including retail, manufacturing and, of course, healthcare. For these companies, the better the picture, the more likely it is that a video conference can replace an in-person meeting; since ROI increases with use, HD technology can actually be more cost effective than its traditional counterpart. Better still, HD systems don’t cost significantly more than traditional group offerings, which rage from $5,000 to $12,000 or more and average $6,000 in the U.S.; in some cases, they cost less.

Although the HD video market is still nascent, all the major video conferencing vendors are starting to support the technology. For instance, Polycom supports HD on its MGC unified conferencing bridges; it also supports the recording, streaming and archiving of HD video conferencing content through its RSS 2000. The vendor will deliver endpoints for high definition video communications in the fourth quarter of 2006. Tandberg’s MXP products are high-definition capable with a software upgrade. Meanwhile, start-up LifeSize Communications’ only products are high-definition: LifeSize Room and LifeSize Team were built from the ground up to take advantage of HD’s cutting edge capabilities.

Given how quickly HDTVs are replacing analog sets on the consumer side, I think it’s just a matter of time before HD video becomes the defacto standard in the enterprise. To learn more about why that is and how fast it will happen, as well as whether the new technology is right for your organization today, I invite you to attend a Webinar I’m participating in on September 19 at 11am EST. Registration is free. See you there (but sadly, not in high definition!)

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