Observations from where technology meets business

conferencing

Dimdim Now Available as VMWare Appliance

dimdim This looks interesting. Dimdim web conferencing is removing usage restrictions from their open source version. I also think it is a smart move on the part of software vendors (open source or commercial) to make VMWare appliances available. I am already downloading the Dimdim appliance and plan on testing it myself.

In the next week we will release a new version of the Dimdim Open Source Community Edition to SourceForge.net.  (UPDATE: our new Open Source release is now available) That version is on par with the features of our hosted offerings, removes the 5 attendee limit, enables multiple simultaneous meetings and even adds a 2-way video chat feature. We have also packaged the Dimdim Servers into a single VMWare Virtual Appliance to ease the installation process.  You'll also notice much improved documentation and a new admin console.

Dimdim Blogblog

Killer App?

Two conflicting articles published this week about video conferencing:
  • Robert X. Cringely recently learned about telepresence (HD video conferencing) and predicts home-based units, possibly sold by Apple, could be the next "Killer App". Just bring to market an attachable HD video camera for the growing population of HD flat-panel TVs already sitting in American's living room and you have a home version of telepresence. Not ready to buy one yet? Well, Cringely says "This is 100 percent analogous to the introduction of color TV in the 1950s. People didn't know they wanted color TV until they saw color TV. But once they saw it, the lure of color TV was instant and obvious". Just imagine pointing a camera at the typical football fan watching the Lions take on the Packers Sunday afternoon. Smile!
  • BusinessWeek.Com just published "BT: Small Firms Snub Videoconferencing " in which "BT's general manager of broadband, VoIP and software services, Chris Lindsay" said "Customers are not seeing the increased benefit from having the visual piece over and above the audio" to explain why demand for video conferencing has been low.

What do you think? Do you need "the visual piece" to effectively collaborate? I don't think you do (in most cases).

To me this looks like a classic example of the type of problem technologists get into as noted by Pip Coburn in his book The Change Function:

"More often than not, products are created in a build-it-and-they-will-come mentality that relies solely upon Moore's Law for lowering prices and what can be called Grove's Law of generating 10x changes and improvements" (from Chapter Two of the Change Function; an abridged version is available at Fast Company).

All we need is a higher resolution video camera and display (which are already in many living rooms btw) along with higher bandwidth. Then, Cringely tells us we simply need to find the price point where it becomes "killer".

The problem is this approach forgets an important point. Does the product solve a problem for the potential customer? Coburn refers to a customer's problem as a "crisis" and says "If the level of crisis is higher than the total perceived pain of adopting a new solution, then a change will occur." By the way, "perceived pain "goes well beyond the cost of the product.

IMHO, put a video conferencing unit into the typical American living room and you will certainly create a crisis. But not the one Cringely would like.

Update: Melanie Turek reports Cisco is considering developing a home telepresence system. Apparently talk about this was hinted at during a discussion with reporters at a recent analyst briefing.

"Tahiti" web conferencing, this is cool

Interesting move by Microsoft to provide free web conferencing hosted on their Windows Live platform. This is something I thought Google should have been providing all along but, for some reason, don't seem interested in doing so. I haven't played with Tahiti yet but reading through the online documentation reveals many familiar features.

In my opinion, application screen sharing is the heart of interactive digital collaboration. Forget about video conferencing, most situations don't require it and it just gets in the way.

With Tahiti you and a handful of colleagues can work together in real-time by manipulating and viewing the same computer screen. Imagine your small team (maybe it is just two of you) sitting at their desks anywhere in the world working with the same application; even passing control of the mouse and keyboard around.

A really cool feature Tahiti looks to provide is remote copy/paste. So instead of your partner emailing a spreadsheet to you and talking you through transferring that complex formula she developed, you pass control of Excel running on your computer to her. Once her keyboard and mouse is controlling your instance of Excel running on your computer she can copy (as in Edit/Copy) the formula from a version of Excel running on her computer and then paste it into the Excel spreadsheet she is now controlling on your computer. Viola, your spreadsheet is updated.

In many cases I think working together this way is more effective than meeting in person. Everyone gets their own keyboard, their own mouse, and their own screen to comfortably view. Actually, I have been in many situations where a small team, crashing on a hot assignment and cloistered in a conference room, fire up NetMeeting to actively exchange information while working on a document, even though they are in the same room.

Of course, you will need a voice connection along with Tahiti but cell calls are cheap these days and there is always Skype.

In my opinion, this could mainstream web conferencing better than Webex could ever have hoped. The limit of fifteen users per session is very reasonable. Its been my experience that almost all of these type of conferences involve 3 or less participants. This is further proof that WebEx's timing was perfect again.

Microsoft today launched a free screen sharing software for Windows XP and Vista users. The software ("Tahiti") can also be used for providing remote tech support or co-authoring presentations and documents with far-away colleagues. [If you need a Tahiti invite, drop in a comment.] The workflow is simple - download and install the Tahiti software (~2.5 MB), login with your Windows Live ID and you are ready to share your entire desktop, web browser or any program application with the world.

The desktop screen can be simultaneously shared with upto 15 people at a time and the person sharing can give control to anyone else who's also part of the screen sharing session. And each participant has a personalized mouse pointer to point out specific items or highlight an area of shared screen.

Source: Microsoft Screen Sharing Software - Simple, Yet Powerful at Digital Inspiration
Via: Collaborative Thinking

What did Cisco Buy?

Last week BusinessWeek's Rob Hof asked "What Did Cisco's $3.2 Billion for WebEx Buy?"

Rob's choices were:

 

1) A channel for its cool telepresence system, according to Sean Ness.

2) A pig in a poke, opines Mike Arrington and a number of commenters on his post. They figure WebEx is too heavy compared to a number of up-and-coming Web conferencing services, and doesn't work as well on different platforms.

3) The future of collaboration, according to Om Malik, who points out, "Shared workspaces, email and even office type apps are part of WebEx’s extended offerings." And WebEx has 2 million customers already.

4) Sex appeal, says Valleywag. Huh? Only in the Valley, I guess.

I just posted a blog on Collaboration Loop about the deal. My view is closer to Arrington's, but for different reasons.

Update: My Collaboration Loop posts have been moved over to the Enterprise 2.0 Blog. The link above has been changed to point to the new location.

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