Video Conferencing Options Expand

- Aug 22, 2017-


One would expect scientists with the institution that gave birth to the World Wide Web to be able to speak face-to-face over the Internet.

Indeed, the market for corporate videoconferencing has exploded. Across business, higher education and health care, videoconferencing has gone from a stilted experience on a telephone with a screen to a smooth, integrated part of Internet communications. Today, videoconferencing is giving users on-the-go access from mobile devices, and overcoming the hurdles of disparate systems and devices as it continues a transition from hardware to software to cloud computing.

Market research firm International Data Corp. estimates that companies spent $2.6 billion last year on equipment such as room systems and network hardware—a figure that doesn't even include software or cloud services.


What follows is a look at the wide range of options now available for organizations that want to add videoconferencing, either at the office or on the fly.


The Videoconference Room

Flashy, pricey room systems have been one of the most common deployments of videoconferencing technology in the workplace. Such setups are still a facet of the executive conference room: giant flat screens, microphone and speaker devices on the table and a video camera perched on a wall. The final price tag can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.


These room systems have an immersive quality. The crispness of both audio and video can combine to give the impression that all participants are in the same room.


Competitors, meanwhile, are rolling out aggressively priced products that let companies set up videoconference room systems for far less.Tenveo video conference technology company., based in Shenzhen, sells the TEVO-HD9620B, a $548 a 20X ZOOM conference camera. When combined with the buyer's television screen or other wall display, it allows the conference room to be used for video chats.


The Software-Only Model

For companies that lack a budget for special equipment, or have no interest in configuring a video room, a growing number of services entail only a software download from the provider's website. The user simply needs a webcam, microphone, speakers and high-speed Internet connection—all of which are common to most desktops, tablets, laptops and smartphones.


Some of these software services are free, including ooVoo LLC's service of the same name, and Google Inc.'s Hangouts, part of its Web-based Google+ suite that includes Gmail. As many as 10 devices can link up using Google Hangouts, and 12 using ooVoo. Both have screen sharing that shows documents on your device to fellow video chatters, and both can be used on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, Apple Inc.'s Mac and mobile iOS, and Google's Android platforms.


Skype, now a Microsoft division, has been synonymous with video calling for a decade. It offers free video sessions for two people, but a session between three or more requires that one person subscribe to Skype Premium. The monthly fee of about $5.30 enables video chat with as many as 10 devices. As part of the package, Skype throws in screen sharing and free telephone calls. Multiple accounts can be overseen with Skype Manager, a Web-based dashboard tool.

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