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Working through the communications continuum

Voice, HD voice, videoconferencing, telepresence, live meetings: How do they all fit together? People have a range of communications choices, but which is the most effective? Chalan Aras, VP of Product Marketing at Polycom and I had a chat about this recently.

In the beginning, people had two real time communications options: the PSTN phone call and live meetings. PSTN is the benchmark upon which all voice communication is measured. For mobility and convenience, people were willing to trade off voice quality, so we got cell phones and “Can you hear me now?” commercials. Nobody in the wireless space is bragging about how good calls sound as compared to the PSTN.

Chalan put “in person” face-to-face meetings as a 100 percent communications experience – you get all the body language, all the tonal nuances, all of the subtle and not-so-subtle information in communication between people. If I recall the percentages correctly, a PSTN voice call comes in at 20 percent while a HD voice and video call would come in at 60 percent and a full-blown dedicated feels-like-in-the-room telepresence solution provides 80 percent of the information of an in-person face to face meeting.

Surprising to me, Aras said that videoconferencing would likely be the pull-through for HD voice. Polycom’s media phone comes with HD voice and a video camera, so HD is included with the price of admission for a desktop video conferencing solution. When I protested that the Polycom media phone isn’t cheap, he pointed out the that the difference between a “stock” IP handset and a discounted media phone is pretty interesting (i.e. attractive to businesses). Another advantage to a dedicated media phone vs. the Microsoft “everything can be done on your PC” approach is that a media phone is a much more responsive (i.e. it’s already booted, no updating software crap while you wait) device. Sure, you can run a video session on your PC/laptop, but you also need the screen real estate to reference and update other information.

It’s an interesting set of ideas. I certainly can buy into the real-time communications continuum outline. Live meetings aren’t going away – it feels like you can get more done in a more compressed period of time and there are fewer distractions.

Put another way: Jeff Pulver isn’t holding the HD Communications Summit over telepresence.

But if you can get 80 percent of the experience without a live meeting, telepresence is going to be a big winner for many corporations in the years to come.

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