Does Video Conferencing Really Work?

Suddenly, everyone is talking about Video conferencing. Cisco Systems just announced an uber video conference system – you could buy that or a tricked out Mercedes Benz. Microsoft is cooking up one of its own. There are other options, of course, and we have written about them on GigaOM. All this attention has sparked off a small controversy. Andy Abramson writes about his clients SightSpeed, and channels Cisco CEO John Chambers as saying:

…a keynote speech in which he said the company has saved US$100 million in air-travel expenses by switching to video-based collaboration. Chambers says he believes that “collaboration is the next frontier for productivity.’’

This hasn’t gone well with Ken Camp, who says that despite all the fancy gear, in the end deals get done F2F (face to face!)

Cisco may have saved money, and maybe they can claim it’s a boatload, but it hasn’t eliminated their travel or need to get in front of customers. In my corporate life, they never try video conferencing… I’m sorry, but telepresence exists in Chambers’ mind, not the reality of Cisco business on the ground.

Strong words… but I kinda agree with him. Video conferencing as a productivity tool… if personal experience is anything to go by, is still sometime in the future. Our distributed team has iChat A/V with cameras built into our respective laptops, but we still don’t use it … at all. Instead we just use it for IM. I have tried to encourage folks to use it, but there is some resistance to it.

What do you folks think?

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