James Governor's Monkchips

A Tale of Two Expectations: On TelePresence vs Skype

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We hear a lot from Cisco these days about TelePresence (hey its even a gag in 30 Rock now) vs HP Halo… but what about Skype Video?

Expectations are set high with Cisco Telepresence. You have to use one of their offices, so its a managed environment.  Quality of service is a given. As chair of SAP’s Sustainability Stakeholder Panel I was recently invited to Cisco’s offices in London to attend a meeting with the Panel, and SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe. You can imagine my disappointment when the system just didn’t work. Even worse – and how is this for unfortunate? – one of the panel members flew from their location to SAP’s Philadelphia office for the TelePresence meeting. Ah yes – sustainability and telepresence… Suffice to say the outcome was pretty embarrassing. Maybe Tim can make something funny out of it. TelePresence is utterly amazing- it really is like being in the room with the other folks on the call- when it works properly. And yes this was nothing but a configuraton issue. I am on the record as being bullish about Cisco’s Video Revolution.

In contrast see the zero expectations Skype Video, which saved us a lot of pain and money recently. You see- I was one of the organisers of the NoSQL EU show, which was scheduled bang smack in the middle of the Ash Cloud. We were worried about what to do – refunds, or whatever, given that some of our speakers wouldn’t be able to get here from the USA. Someone (it could well have been me) suggested we use Skype Video for the presentations. Feedback was uniformly positive, although special props go out to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels for making it to London via Reykjavik and Glasgow!!! All Things Distributed… including Werner! I would have enjoyed a keynote from Eyjafjallajokull though…

I know Skype Video can work for presentations because we have used it at HomeCamp, where Tom Raftery presented from Seville to a room full of UK geeks… and his session was highest rated as a call to action by the group.

I was just taken by the old High vs Low, Enterprise vs Consumer, Top Down vs Peer to Peer balance here.

Talking about balance how about work/life – you want the truth? The first time I used Skype Video to talk to my son I misted up. I just kept thinking:

“I can see my son from California. And this darned service is free.”

If you travel and have kids make sure you use it.

My point here is really not about technology so much as expectation management. It seems to me that if Skype gets its act together around the business model its Video product could be a runaway success (and by runaway I mean enterprisey revenues). Cisco evidently knows it needs to nail a “lower” end space – thus its acquisition of Tandberg. But Skype Video brings the barrier to participation down to one question- do you have a web cam? Greenmonk even uses Skype Video to record video interviews with Smart Grid Heavy Hitters.

SureMute may be a joke on 30Rock but its not funny when you can’t see the guys in the other room.

disclosure Cisco is a client. HP and Skype are not.


  1. James Governor’s Monkchips » A Tale of Two Expectations: On TelePresence vs Skype http://monk.ly/cdYFDB
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    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

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  4. At my last enterprise (big bank) job we did a stack of stuff around video conferencing, and looked right from the high end down to Skype.

    At the high end we initially went with HP’s Halo. All it took was dragging the executive board into a meeting and they were all ‘how soon can we have this?’ – they went for 6 rooms in 4 locations initially. Realistically I don’t think it made the exec board travel any less, but it did allow them to talk to each other a lot more. The killer feature of Halo is the ergonomics (particularly around eye contact), but the codecs and low latency network help too. I remember joking once with a colleague in NY (where the room was crammed) that he could have one of our spare chairs in London – it did feel like he could step through the screen, if only HP could sort out their matter transfer beam (one for the list after memristors).

    Halo is expensive, so once the execs started using their rooms pretty much all the time we needed something more cost effective for the mere mortals. In the end this was a Tandberg setup, with some Halo style rooms and a good number of desktop units. The specially fitted out ‘virtual meeting rooms’ didn’t quite have the ergonomics of Halo (or Telepresence) but provided a good enough experience at a much keener price point.

    Skype have totally nailed ease of use, ubiquity and bandwidth utilisation. We tried very hard to put it into the hands of travellers using company laptops, but the risk and compliance types got in the way. Other solutions from MS, Avaya and others just didn’t work well enough (if at all).

    We tried (and mostly failed) to find some sensible middle ground between the Skype user experience and cost and the dedicated high end meeting rooms. We imagined something that did high def, low latency, but that could be carried in a briefcase. Nobody makes that yet, and if they did it wouldn’t work most of the time because the Internet that you get at the edge often isn’t good enough.

  5. Skype is great for grandparents also. My wife and I had our first child on January first this year.

    Both sets of grandparents live several hours away. For Chirstmas, we gave them both a high-end webcam and helped them set up Skype.

    We frequently have video chats so they can keep up with the kid’s development.

    Downside, I think he may grow up thinking his grandparents live in the Television

  6. The question is, will Cisco really gain from the low end market? I don’t see them making free give-away service like Skype does.

    They generally will make more money from targeting higher-value clients that will pay thoudands to setup a virtual meeting

  7. great stuff Chris. thanks for that view. i was talking to a client this week and they mentioned an interesting pattern. talking to a colleague- “lets go to the TelePresence office for this…” “why? lets just use Skype video…”

    Joel that is fantastic. they can actually *help* your kids development. Grandparents play a role there if we’re lucky enough to have them… 🙂

    James- i didn’t say give away, did I? there have to be revenues associated, but as Joel makes abundantly clear TelePresence doesn’t really work out for road warriors.

  8. 1. James, you can come over to Bristol and have a Halo conf some time, it does good document and laptop sharing too.

    2. But skype video, with built in cameras in laptops, is fantastic for biz travel. Why phone home from a hotel when you can videoconf?

  9. […] enterprise analyst James Governor wrote in May: “It seems to me that if Skype gets its act together around the business model its Video […]

  10. […] enterprise analyst James Governor wrote in May: “It seems to me that if Skype gets its act together around the business model its Video […]

  11. […] enterprise analyst James Governor wrote in May: “It seems to me that if Skype gets its act together around the business model its Video […]

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