Blog Post

Video reasons for Google-Marratech deal

Apple is a good leading indicator of what technologies are going to go mainstream. From WiFi to Bluetooth, it has been pushing the envelope on its machines. (Not so much when it came to firewire!) Over a year ago, it started to incorporate cameras right into its machines – from iMacs to MacBook Pros to eventually MacBooks – betting that video chatting (or conferencing) would become a mainstream activity, mostly because of its easy to use iChat.

Likewise, Microsoft, Cisco and several others have added video to their enterprise focused products. This converged view of communications is one of the reasons why Google has acquired video conferencing software from Swedish start-up, Marratech. On the blog Google says:

As a company, we thrive on casual interactions and spontaneous collaboration. So we’re excited about acquiring Marratech’s video conferencing software, which will enable from-the-desktop participation for Googlers in video conference meetings wherever there’s an Internet connection.

If they are making a deal to buy the software for internal use only, then you need to wonder why this company, and why acquire a piece of software? It doesn’t exactly seem to be a good way of spending their cash. I think they might have bigger ambitions though, as it also tries to capture the small-and-medium enterprises with its office-suite. Perhaps some of the Marratech functionality ends up in the Google Talk client.

While Apple wasn’t the first to focus on video chatting, it surely was the first to fit its entire consumer focused computer line-up with cameras. Today, most laptop makers have started to include cameras in their laptops, and slowly but surely, the video conferencing (or chatting) has started to take off.

Several companies, like SightSpeed and Skype have make video-ready communications software, a tip of the hat to the fact that today communication is not just about email, instant messaging and voice. It also is about video.

Conferencing – video, voice and white board – is now part of work life, whether you are a small company, a web worker or a large corporation.

16 Responses to “Video reasons for Google-Marratech deal”

  1. William Florance

    What perplexes me is that if Google were really serious about adding real-time, webconferencing/collaboration (which is what Marratech is), why did they not talk to other, more established players in the space. I happen to work for one of those companies and we were not approached at any time by Google. And as far as I can tell, none of our other competitors were either.

    I’m not saying that Marratech is a bad product (it’s pretty good I think), but I wonder if it wasn’t more of a case of Marratech approaching Google and offering themselves at a price that Google couldn’t ignore. As far as I can tell, Marratech has extremely little penetration.

    Anyone have ANY clue how much Google spent on this? Any clue how/where they will expose it for mass adoption?

  2. David Richardson

    I’ve been using Marratech since 2003. Another feature of Marratech which runs in the background is its bandwith-sharing function. This automatically adjusts the use of bandwidth between participants, so that low-bandwith users don’t get swamped by the high bandwidth ones.

    You can also have lots and lots of people connected up at once. I was once in a Marratech meeting with about 90 participants without loss of audio or video quality.

    BTW, just in case you’re curious, ‘marra’ is a ‘samisk’ word for meeting place … and ‘tech’ is just, well, tech! ‘Samer’ is the proper name for the people who live in the north of the world, often called Lapps by people who don’t know that the term has racist overtones in Swedish.

  3. Skype is a P2P technology. Marratech is server based. Marratech is Java and is cross platform on the client you download and the server you can run it on. Marratech has whiteboard, application sharing, document sharing, desktop sharing, and generally is more collaborative than Skype. With Skype you can transfer files, with Marratech you use a Whiteboard to collobrate with them with annotating, and can share applications.

    Also Marratech has built in recording functions that allows for full recording of entire conferences that can be done by any participant. Marratech can make video calls to Tandberg, Polycom, Sony, H.323 endpoints. This was a big issue for Google as they have a lot of Tandbergs in their organization. Skype can not do this.

    Marratech can be totally integrated easily into a website, allowing people to simply click on a web link that brings them into a virtual meeting room. You can invite participants by simply emailing them the link. Marratech has built-in features for taking screenshots on anything on your desktop.

    In multi-point web conferences Marratech allows for “private” side bar audio and text chat within the larger web video conference. This is not a feature of Skype.

  4. Om,

    Glad you called them out on the whole FireWire thing. People seem to have forgotten that:

    A) FireWire pre-dated USB considerably.

    B) FireWire was faster than USB 1.0.

    and

    C) Apple almost single-handedly made USB a success by using USB peripherals on the iMac, causing peripheral makers to finally support the standard.

    So they basically shot themselves in the foot by doing USB devices rather than FireWire. We might be living in a FireWire world right now if it weren’t for Apple. :)

  5. Marratech is totally cross-platform on the client and the server side. Marratech runs on OS X, Windows, and Linux and is based on Java. You do have to download a client, but using their java web start you can download the client onto a machine in the background from just clicking on a web link to join an online meeting.

    We have been using Marratech for over 4 yeares in a state-wide educational network. I have worked with web and video conferencing for many years and have tested mostly everything. Marratech is a top of the line product and bests WebEX on several levels.

    Google has made a good purchase here and I think you will see them leverage this, not only use it internally. Google uses a lot of Tandberg video endpoints and Marratech can connect to these with ease. It is one of the few products that bridges between video H.232 and web conferencing.

  6. The software end is a wee bit closer to cross-platform interoperability. Skype finally got things sorted.

    The hardware end is still creaking and groaning. IMHO, the executive end of the major webcam producers don’t even perceive the need.

    I agree about 110% with your analysis. Now, how do we get the folks at Logitech, Creative, et al, to read it and join in?