SM: Let’s switch to entrepreneurial opportunities. Give me some ideas about interesting collaboration applications that are open areas that could be interesting businesses to build today, given today’s landscape.
CL: Sure. I there’s still a lot of opportunities around better unification of the user experience, especially as it relates to data conferencing and Web conferencing. I think Web conferencing is well understood, well adopted, but it has a narrow focus. It’s designed to serve scheduled meetings. The whole user interface paradigm is done in support of that. If you go the other extreme and take technologies like Skype in the consumer space or Microsoft Lync in the enterprise space, there the user interface paradigm is different. It’s based on a presence model. It’s ad hoc meetings. It’s starting with a two-party call, adding multiple participants, but it’s focused on voice and video primarily. The ability to add a data channel to that is often a little [tricky]. There’s an opportunity marry the two paradigms and deliver an experience to the end user.
If you take that one step further, there is also an opportunity to look at standardization a bit. As an old time video professional, it’s astounding to me that the video conferencing industry has never been beaten up about standardization. If you get a system from Webex, everybody has to be on Webex to be able to communicate. If you have Citrix Go-To-Meeting, everybody has to be on Go-To-Meeting. The two never communicate. In the voice and video world, that just doesn’t happen without standardization and interoperability, people don’t buy into the technology. So, I think there’s an opportunity for someone to drive more standardization in the Web conferencing world and use that to better integrate into video conferencing where you do have an ability to share data in a standards-based way but with nowhere near the features and the experience that the Web conferencing systems have. That would be one area that could be explored by someone and see if there may be some big improvements that could be made.
SM: What about applications around your offering? You were giving me examples earlier about Salesforce.com and other applications that can be video enabled. If you were to do a blue sky exercise of other interesting use cases, of using unified communications – let’s say maybe you act as an empowering technology – what kind of interesting use cases can you think of?
CL: That’s a good question. Around the infrastructure, there’re still opportunities to connect anything to anything else. There’s Skype out there, which is one of the most wide spread communications technologies in the world. But if you think about it, it’s also one of the most closed. Other than talking to the public Swiss telephony system, Skype doesn’t talk to much of anything else. Now, people are starting to think about gateways and what have you. Then there’s Google and Google Talk in the consumer space. There is Microsoft Lync. There is standards-based video conferencing. There’s a company called Blue Jeans Network that, I think, just launched a couple months ago, that is starting to address some of those issues and provide interoperability between a lot of these technologies in the cloud. They’ve got on specific way of approaching that.
There’re opportunities still for people to look at communications and interactions more realistically and see what it would take to connect anything to anything else.
SM: On the application side, though, I think some of the most interesting opportunities are in distance learning.
CL: Yes. Again, that’s a space I personally don’t know all that well. But, yes, with all the budget cuts in the educational system, the ability to reach large numbers of students without having them all in the same place is something that ought to be attractive for a lot of people. There’re companies like Blackboard and what have you that built technology for that. Having a more integrated voice and video experience over the public Internet would likely be a good opportunity as well.
SM: It’s an interesting set of perspectives.
CL: Having been in the video industry for 20 years, it’s good to see that video is finally getting the adoption that we thought it was going to get 10 years ago.
SM: It’s going to go a lot faster now.
CL: Yes. I always joke with people that it takes about 15 years to become an overnight success. So, I think we’re just about right there now.
SM: Very nice talking to you, Chris.
CL: Nice talking to you.