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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar (Part 6)

Posted on Saturday, Dec 24th 2011

SM: Interesting, very interesting. I’m interested in also exploring the implications of collaboration/cloud-based collaboration outside of the enterprise. Is that something that you can talk to? Have you been following the evolution outside of the enterprise?

CL: Yes. Given our focus, most of our experience has been with the enterprise because that’s where most of our customers are. Now, if you go outside the enterprise, if you go all the way to consumer applications, I think there are definitely opportunities from a technology point of view. You could argue that voice and video communications and cloud computing, to some extent, has been adopted more aggressively on the consumer side than it has been on the enterprise side. The challenge with that is the whole monetization aspect of it. In the consumer space, customers have developed an expectation that those types of technologies become increasingly free. People have things like Skype, have technologies where everything is de facto free. For organizations, that creates a challenge of how do you monetize that? Avistar hasn’t focused on that, so we don’t have any differentiators in that area. I think where there is an opportunity for companies with more of an enterprise focus, like ours, is an intersection between enterprises and consumers. There’s a whole business-to-consumer aspect.

We’ve done some projects with customers, for example, that run a service. You can think of it as a call center service where they provide video access directly to consumers, provide video access to mortgage brokers who give advice about re-financing their mortgages and different products that are available. That’s done through a Web-based application where the infrastructure that runs all the voice and video is part of the enterprise infrastructure, but the experience to the end user, to the consumer, is delivered through the Internet across Web-based UIs. It allows customers to provide differentiated experiences, better customer service and what have you. And that’s something that can get monetized with traditional models where you just license the software.

SM: You’re saying in the industries that need some sort of high-touch sales or customer service where a video experience adds value, those are the kinds of areas where your kind model would be effective.

CL: Absolutely. Again, where the visual contact provides a differentiator, that’s a prime opportunity for video technologies to enhance that.

SM: That’s not what I had in mind when I asked you the question. What you said was very interesting; however, I was thinking about the SME market where Citrix and Webex play heavily. Both of those companies have their genesis and huge focus in the SME market, right?

CL: Right, absolutely. That’s an area where we play indirectly. Avistar has customers that are providing voice and video services out in the cloud – if you will – and are focused primarily on the SME market. If you think about it from a video conferencing angle, there’re large numbers of smaller companies that buy video conferencing end points from Cisco or Polycom or LifeSize but never buy any infrastructure. So, that means that these systems can only be used to place point-to-point calls not multi-party calls. It means that calling is typically done by IP address, which is not very user friendly. The video experience is just fine, but the usability and integration are lacking for those types of customers. The reason for that is that typically, the cost of entry for buying into infrastructure is so high that a lot of these small companies can’t afford it.

So, what we’re seeing is a lot service providers out there that are starting to add video conferencing infrastructure to their … what’s typically been voice infrastructure, hosted PBX, hosted voice. Those organizations are starting to add video so that these customers that do have half a dozen, a dozen video end points but no infrastructure can point those end points at the host provider’s infrastructure, get the benefit of having those end points register, and as a result, can get presence-based calling or at least calling by username as opposed to IP address, and then also take advantage of multi-party conferencing that would be provided as a service to those end points. There’s  a lot of momentum, I believe, in that area. People are starting to figure out what are the right price points for those types of services. There’s a lot of opportunity in that area.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Chris Lauwers, CTO of Avistar
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