Voip.biz-news.com spoke to Huw Rees, VP of marketing and sales at Internet-based voice and video telephony company 8×8, to get his feedback on VoIP videoconferencing as a corporate communication tool.
In these times of budget cuts and soaring travel costs, videoconferencing has been hailed as an effective means of communicating with far-flung employees and customers.

Companies such as Cisco TelePresence, HP Halo and Lifesize have invested heavily in videoconferencing – or telepresence – technology and offer a range of HD products, some of which cost upwards USD $100,000.

While these studio-type devices are beyond the range of small businesses, there are an increasing number of affordable desktop IP-based videoconferencing systems on the market.

With early problems of video quality now overcome, VoIP videoconferencing products would seem to be an ideal corporate communication tool.

Although more geared to two or three-way conference calls – rather than larger groups – they a provide clear, face-to-face visual link.
Yet these easy to use, low-cost alternatives have still to catch on.

Internet-based voice and video telephony company 8×8 introduced its videoconferencing solution, the Packet8 Virtual Office Tango Video Terminal Adapter (VTA), in January.

However, Huw Rees, vice president of marketing and sales at 8×8, said so far it had not proved to be very popular.
He said it had been adopted by around 5 per cent of subscribers.

“It’s not really a runaway success,” he said. “Generally people do not use video to phone a lot of people.

“They are still a bit unconfortable being in front of a camera rather than having a straight audio call.”

Headquarted in Santa Clara, California, 8×8 is the second largest stand alone VoIP service provider in the US.

Benefits Of  Videoconferencing?

Rees said that, apart from in specific circumstances, business people didn’t see any benefit from using video.
“We believe that will change, but we have been saying that for several years and haven’t seen it yet,” he said.

Rees said that he remained to be convinced that even the expensive room systems with giant HD screens were realy going to catch on.

“Presumably these companies have done their research but it will be interesting to see what happens,” he said.

“There are certain circumstances where these set-ups work, such as when a business has two teams involved on a project in different parts of the country. But this is very specific.”

Rees said the VTA, which has a built-in TFT LCD 5” display, has been adapted from an existing consumer product for its business customers.

He said the main difference was that it was an extension on a PBX rather than being a stand-alone device.

A phone is supplied with the package, with features such as call transferring built into it.

Video Quality Not An Issue

Joan Citelli, direct of corporate communications for 8×8, said video quality had been poor in the early days of IP-based videoconferencing but that was not the case today.

“Quality is not an issue any longer,” she said. “Videoconferencing does seem to make a lot of sense and you would think that it would allow companies to cut down on commuting and travelling.

“But it seems that seeing someone on a phone call is not a replacement for meeting and sitting down with them.”

Have you used a desktop videoconferencing package? We would be interested to hear your comments on videoconferencing and whether it is going to catch on with small business users.

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