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Bruafekkay Posted:
agreed dingy
anybody, obviously
if the quarters is
not provided with
the requisite
...

In The Forum:
Vonage V-Phone & SoftPhone
Topic:
granit stelen beefy
On Dec 08, 2016 at 19:41:55

Bruafekkay Posted:
agreed drab
individual, large
if the hamlet is
not provided with
the requisite
...

In The Forum:
Vonage V-Phone & SoftPhone
Topic:
mauersteine 50x50 unsparing
On Dec 07, 2016 at 20:07:45

tplink Posted:
Im trying to add
my HT802 vonage
adapter to my home
network. I
currently have
...

In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
Topic:
Vonage behind switch
On Dec 05, 2016 at 06:35:11

DWSupport Posted:
After recent
Vonage update that
took place on the
4th and 5th of
Nov. E-mails with
...

In The Forum:
Vonage
Topic:
Voicemail Not Forwarding to Outlook Accounts
On Nov 10, 2016 at 12:23:26

peterlee Posted:
Had a call from a
Hospital in Ajax,
Ontario to my home
in
Scarborough, Onta
rio
...

In The Forum:
Vonage Canada
Topic:
Hospital Incoming call unable to connect
On Nov 08, 2016 at 11:59:50

TELLDOUG Posted:
I am looking for a
product that will
make my phone ring
louder so I can
hear using
...

In The Forum:
Vonage
Topic:
Looking for a ringer ameliorate
On Oct 26, 2016 at 09:21:30

HildBeft Posted:
You can recollect
password by
connecting the
router to your pc
and open the
browser
...

In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
Topic:
How to arrive at wifi password?
On Oct 20, 2016 at 05:05:49

HildBeft Posted:
Great tips..
Thanks for sharing
...

In The Forum:
Hard Wiring - Installation
Topic:
How to have Vonage and another land line?
On Oct 20, 2016 at 04:55:03

massrman Posted:
The devices are
available at
different price
margins , please
share your
estimated
...

In The Forum:
Vonage
Topic:
IP PBX for small business
On Sep 30, 2016 at 00:48:03

massrman Posted:
Hi these are most
commonly used SIP
PBX interops and
their
configuration
guides,
...

In The Forum:
Vonage
Topic:
IP PBX for small business
On Sep 30, 2016 at 00:37:45


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Videophones, Round 3: Finally As Easy As Picking Up The Phone?


Vonage In Print News

Videophones, Round 3: Finally As Easy As Picking Up The Phone?

December 15, 2004

By Tim Siglin

A batch of recent announcements and upcoming CES product announcements suggest that videophones just might be ready for their closeup.

One of the key mantras in the videoconferencing market always has been “it should as easy as picking up a phone.” Some products, such as Polycom’s intuitive remote control—which was based on feedback from the gaming industry—meet the criteria; other products throughout the years have missed the ease-of-use mark entirely.

The mantra has also, from time to time, compelled product manufacturers to attempt to integrate videoconferencing into the venerable desktop phone. Dubbed the “videophone,” these devices appear every few years in an attempt to merge phone and videoconferencing functionalities in one unit.

Videophones were first introduced by AT&T at the 1964 World’s Fair, meeting with great critical acclaim and public wonder but limited financial success. In the mid-1990s, the advent of ISDN allowed product manufacturers of ISDN videoconferencing systems the flexibility of shrinking room-sized systems into compact phone/videoconferencing units similar in size to today’s videophones. But the cost of compact, integrated, flat-panel screens pushed the price of the units into the thousands, and video quality was substandard due to the single ISDN limit (128Kbps) and compression algorithms that were optimized for the higher bitrates used in room videoconferencing systems. These units enjoyed brief success, with rollouts by major telephony service providers reaching similar “buzz levels” to current announcements (see this 1996 article for one example).

Vonage announced in December that it will begin to sell videophone service to its voice over IP customers, with a focus on small to medium business customers. The announcement, which also included mention of Vonage’s hardware partner, Viseon, received significant press attention and ushers in Round 3 of videophone convergence, with several other product manufacturers soon to follow suit.

These new videophones appear poised to address the technical issues that doomed videophones in the 1960s and 1990s: today’s units replace ISDN or POTS lines with IP transmission, feature SIP and H.323 support, incorporate new codecs such as H.264, and feature low-cost, high-resolution LCD screens. Yet a fundamental question has remained unanswered since 1964: do business customers want videophones and will they use them?

To get a better sense of how Round 3 companies will fare, three critical concerns need to be addressed: product design strategy, marketing strategy, and consumer behavior.

Product Design Strategy. The CES show in early January 2005 will see the unveiling of numerous videophone products, such as the Vonage/Viseon unit and WorldGate’s Ojo (based on a Motorola chipset, who is also an early Ojo customer). Based on information current as of this article, it appears Vonage made the right choice for a hardware partner, since Viseon had previously released a videophone product—the Visifone—in late 2003. According to Inside Digital Media, Viseon plans to release its new product for less than $300 (the Visifone was released at a $599 price point). To aid in product design, Viseon announced that it had engaged Bleck Design Group, a well-known firm that has designed ubiquitous products like the Polycom ViewStation and Dymo Label Printer. Bleck Design Group will perform both mechanical and functional design of the new Viseon videophone.

Market strategy. Vonage and Time Warner Cable, whose Northeast Ohio division became the first cable MSO to market the Viseon Visifone in September 2004, share the same target market —the small and medium enterprise (SME). Because videoconferencing works best with isochronous or equal upload/download speeds, current provider-imposed bandwidth limitations on consumer upload speeds make the SME market appear more attractive. Vonage’s announcement notes that the service will allow “small business customers to benefit from corporate-quality videoconferencing.” But corporate customers prefer group conferencing systems over videophones, and the potential market size for single-person business videoconferencing systems is tiny compared to the potential general consumer user base for single-person videoconferencing systems.

Most businesses prefer group videoconferencing systems for three important reasons. First, limited bandwidth dedicated to videoconferencing means that group systems lower the number of end points required on a call, which in turn equates to lower overall bandwidth requirements per location. Group systems, in turn, mean lower cost per system as well, since multipoint control units (MCUs) are typically cost-inhibitive for SMEs on a per-port basis. Third, group systems provide higher participant interaction and efficiency, allowing members of a local group to have “sidebar” conversations during a videoconference.

Consumer behavior. Some products reach the market through uses other than the “intended use” that the service provider or manufacturer may have envisioned. Personal behavior played a much larger role in the mid-1990s rejection of videophones, but its role was masked by the small market size of those who actually adopted the expensive, underperforming units available at that time. Three comments have been voiced consistently in online forums by customers and potential customers of videophones.

The first is summed up succinctly by a recent post by a business person who commented on the Vonage announcement by saying, “Do I really want to see the person I don’t want to be talking to in the first place?” In other words, is there a true value for one business person to see the to another business person, especially on a very small screen? In early point-to-point videophones equipped with small screens and fisheye or wide angle lenses, each participant was forced to lean close to the desktop phone to see the other participant, resulting in some humorous images since early phones used wide-angle camera lenses. While these images may be acceptable to consumers who would mount the oversized videophones on a wall and hold the baby up in front of it from grandmother to see, very few business users will benefit from either a wall-mounted scenario or the “big nose syndrome.”

The second comment is that videophones inhibit mobility, much the way that traditional desk phones have been augmented or supplanted by mobile or cordless phones. The mobility comment has become more consistent as the average SME business user has greater flexibility of movement with wireless LANs and mobile telephony. The ability to move around an office, even with a traditional desk phone, has been addressed by aftermarket vendors such as Hello Direct. But no option yet exists for remote videophone connectivity or wireless videophones, although it does already exist at equal quality in a webcam/laptop combination (such as Apple’s iSight/Powerbook/iChat AV combination that has been available for almost a year and is due for a multipoint update in the first half of 2005).

The third comment, dating back to the early 1990s before the advent of Round 2 videophones, was the request to receive content of value (i.e., not talking heads) but not to be required to send video back. This comment stemmed from research done by research groups such as ForwardConcepts that found business users—given limited bandwidth—would choose to prioritize use of a conferencing or collaboration system as data/graphics first, followed closely by voice, with video coming in a distant third. Viseon’s Visifone included NTSC and PAL video inputs, which provide the capability of sending any video signal in lieu of just the videophone camera. If the new version also includes this capability, along with the benefits of H.264 and SIP, it just might win over the SME market.

So will Round 3 look any different from the first two rounds? Will the arrival of products from Viseon, WorldGate, and others provide a decisive KO or just another few months of sparring before videophones go back to the corner for another few years of rest before Round 4? We’ll just have to wait until CES to see.



 
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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See www.vonage.com/911 for details.

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