Video conferencing is like shopping for a new car – consider what matters most

A few years ago, I test drove a new Mercedes. It was magnificent. The salesperson took me out, blasted up the road, went around corners at crazy speeds, told me how many horsepower it had and how I could go from 0-60 in 5 seconds, and then carry on accelerating until I hit 155mph. It was amazing. It was also completely pointless.

I suspect I’m similar to most people when it comes to car ownership. The 0-60 time is nice to have as low as possible, but what matters is that it starts. Every, single, time. That it can do 155mph is marvelous, but the ability to do 75mph utterly effortlessly, and get good mileage into the bargain is what really matters. After the test drive they could replace the 400bhp V8, with a 100 horsepower 3 cylinder and as long as it started every, single, time, and was quiet I’d probably never even notice.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Video Conferencing industry is very much like the car business. It loves to tout the numbers, show off how clever it is, and wow people at the demonstration. But it’s not how the real world works.

After spending an amazing week with 25,000 people at Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta I was struck by a number of ideas.

The first was that many of these people were intensely interested in the ability to use video conferencing natively within their existing (and typically huge) Skype for Business environment. Many had legacy Hardware based video conferencing solutions from a range of vendors, but they were looking for something new.

They were not looking for a better quality of call, but a better quality user experience. Those two things may sound the same. After about 200 conversations about it, I came to the realization that they are utterly different. These folks in the Microsoft Skype for Business world understand that adoption is everything. You can have the “best” system in the world but it’s irrelevant if no one uses it.

They were looking for a number of things.

  • A familiar experience

A user interface their users were familiar with. Many of us have given up on the illusion of an easy to learn user interface, and realized familiarity beats easy to learn. As a result they wanted a solution that was familiar to their Skype for Business user community.

  • A native Skype for Business solution

The idea of gateways and running two solutions was important to some, but for many they were looking for a fresh start.

  • Easy data

Easy and familiar ability to deal with data. For many Skype for Business users the idea of plugging a laptop into a Hardware codec and showing the data to the far end is out moded. They wanted to be able to load presentations and documents into the meeting environment and work cooperatively on them inside the call.

  • Scale

The Skype for Business world is looking at collaborating at a scale I personally have never experienced before. I met organizations like the Iowa Cat Wranglers, an organization I didn’t even know existed that has 70,000 Skype for Business users and wants to equip a significant of their environment with video. It truly was amazing.

At Ignite, Logitech announced SmartDock, and it was fascinating to see how well this solution fits for so many of these Skype for Business users. For details on the SmartDock go here.

Interestingly enough the SmartDock, along with the Logitech GROUP, enables great, full HD-quality video calls. Clients took that as given. But what they truly cared about was single-touch dialing to join a meeting in a conference room, a familiar user interface, the ability to share data, and a way to scale the whole solution to the entire organization.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to check whether my car has a V8 engine under the hood, or just a V8 badge on the back.

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