The past and future of the videoconference room, Part 2: The Room

Getting to the right answer when picking collaboration systems is never just about the technology. The first step is understanding your use case and environment.

room under construction
Credit: David Danto

In the first of this series of blogs, I discussed the history and future of videoconferencing cameras. This – part two – comes out of a conversation I had with my friend and industry colleague Simon Dudley on the eternal hardware-vs-software debate. I advocated that apps and software had their place, but nothing will beat the reliability and quality of a dedicated device to complete mission-critical calls. Simon, on the other hand, believes that software codecs and cloud services coupled with good cameras and microphones give a "good enough" quality of experience and make life much more flexible for the users (and less locked-in for the IT department.)

While neither of us is wrong, the lesson here is that each use case and user need is different, and developing a blend of technologies to meet each one is the best practice an organization can follow. The first step in doing that is understanding the nuances of each environment and how collaboration best works within them. Or, in other words, bypass the technology discussion and take a look at the environment – the room.

The first video collaboration systems used in enterprises involved balky carts and completely assumed they’d be located in conference rooms. In today’s world, effective visual collaboration no longer means going to a dedicated room to use installed, expensive technology. In fact, many software firms will point out to you that their desktop or mobile software enables videoconferencing as good as any room ever did – and usually for just a fraction of the cost. Of course, when you try to use their software out of its sweet spot – in an actual conference room - the experience can be awful.

The hierarchy of rooms/spaces/environments for visual collaboration begins with a few flavors of mobility and then progresses through rooms to much larger spaces:

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