Google Video chat – watch out Cisco

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase

Introduced to the market in October 2006, Cisco TelePresence has become the company’s fastest-growing emerging technology, with more than 100 customers globally. Telepresence is of course the very high-end of the video-conferencing market using large high definition screen, spatial audio and even matching room decor among remote offices – all designed to deliver the illusion to participants of being present, in the same room together.

At the low-end of video-conferencing we have ‘video-calling’ where services like PalTalk, TokBox and Sightspeed have been picking up the slack. In a sign of things to come peripheral giant Logitech recently bought Sightspeed, for $30 million in cash, with webcam integration surely in mind. But the leader of the pack has undoubtedly been Skype who offer an unmatched High Quality video service for those with newer computers and reasonably fast broadband.

Enter Google. Inevitably. The search giant has finally added video to Gmail Chat

"… and in the spirit of open communications, we designed this feature using Internet standards such as XMPP, RTP, and H.264, which means that third-party applications and networks can choose to interoperate with Gmail voice and video chat."

Interestingly, neither the official Gmail blog nor any of the mainstream commentary I’ve read make any mention of an important technology working behind the scenes – VidyoRouter. Indeed the only reference I’ve seen is at the bottom of the download thank you page. Astonishingly not even Vidyo’s own news page is trumpeting their big win. Regardless, their homepage explains what makes VidyoRouter rather special –

"Vidyo provides for high-quality, low-latency, highly resilient,
broad-based deployments over general-purpose networks with the
introduction of the first multi-point video conferencing solution
designed to work like the Internet itself. That’s right — out is the
old MCU-centric model and in is the first solution for video
conferencing designed specifically for the world of distributed
computing — all thanks to Vidyo’s unique intellectual property and the
advent of the VidyoRouter."

My new project is Vizitant, an effort to bring the benefits of video calling to socially marginalized groups like the elderly and carers. As such I’ve been doing a lot of research into these technologies and became aware of Vidyo a few months ago. But it was only last week that I eventually got a demo of what VidyoRouter could do, courtesy of Videnda, a trade only distributor focusing on VoIP and video conferencing solutions.

I wasn’t blown away by it – while it definitely stood up there with Skype Video it didn’t seem much if any better. But Liam at Videnda assured me it was due to my low-spec laptop and that performance is significantly better on a dual-core PC.

Indeed this performance issue is something Rafe Needleman also noted, in his review for Cnet –

"… the service was a resource hog on my 2-year-old computer; it used
up all my available CPU resources and made other apps slow to respond.
I’ve had better luck with Skype. Newer computers would probably not
have this problem."

Probably not. In fact it ran quite well on my Dell Inspiron Mini netbook. Regardless, the fact that Google is now putting it’s massive resources behind a large scale deployment of VidyoRouter means it’s not only gunning for Skype but inevitably for Cisco. No, not high-end telepresence, not yet anway, but low-end or consumer telepresence which Cisco is aiming to attack next year –

Chief Executive John
Chambers said the company will launch a consumer version of its
high-definition video conferencing system in around a year… "What you’re going to see is, over the next 12 to 15 months … high
definition capabilities for TelePresence into the home"

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2 Responses to “Google Video chat – watch out Cisco”

  1. Stop Smoking Says:

    This is great! And video chat does not get any easier than that.

  2. Roland Says:

    Hello James, interesting write up. As we are also in the video conferencing space we have tested Vidyo in later summer 2008 and kept at it though out the last year. We came to the same results (even now in June 2009) that Vidyo is very heavy on the hardware and even with a dual core (recommended spec) we still only achieved basic results. I really like the idea of the Vidyo guys and we as a company would promote the services straight away, if they would run on a more reasonable spec that represent a more common PC out there. However – there is hope – our Video Conferencing solution has non of these high spec requirements and allows up to HiDef video conferencing, on any standard PC and with a standard broad band connection. It still is the only solution on the market that does this and I would be more than happy to guide you around. With this you can fulfil the mission that you have setout for and deliver high quality remote meetings to all you people. Talk soon. Roland

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