I was reading an article in WebUrbanist about the evolution of 10 essential gadgets & technologies the other day and thought about how video conferencing is following the trend of being “smaller, cheaper and more capable”.
You can argue that endpoints have only gotten bigger (Telepresence…) and more expensive (Telepresence!!!), but if you consider how their capabilities have increased, you could say that they have shrunk considerably in comparison to their old counterparts.
Not convinced? Interested?! Well, a photo is worth a thousand words, so take a look at the evolution of video conferencing endpoints and see for yourself:
1970: The Picturephone
The first Picturephone, built in 1956 in the AT&T Labs, was crude – it transmitted an image every two seconds. However, Bell Systems was convinced that the Picturephone had a future and debuted their commercial Picturephone in 1970, predicting that by 1980, 1 million devices would be sold.
The Picturephone was a failure. Video conferencing systems from Compression Labs and PictureTel, with price tags of more than $100,000, failed as well. It would take almost three decades for video conferencing to succeed commercially.
1997: CLI Eclipse
The Eclipse, manufactured by CLI (now VTEL) was a room-based video conferencing unit.
Camera had up to four fixed positions, the monitor was 20 or 27 inch, and the codec was capable of handling up to 384 kbps.
2000: PictureTel 600
The PictureTel 600 was a “set-top box”-like endpoint, designed to sit on a conference table or a monitor.
The 600 connected via IP or ISDN and offered conferencing at up to 768 kbps. It was a PC-centric device, based on a 566 MHz Intel Celeron processor, running Windows 2000.
It was small enough for a desk or a table, and offered content sharing via laptops, the web or any standard peripheral.
2001: Tandberg 1000
In 2001 Tandberg released the Tandberg 1000, an endpoint that has gained tremendous popularity and continues to live to this day.
The 1000 had a marvelous break-through design – a totally integrated system with a camera, codec, audio system and a 12.1″ LCD display while still being small enough to sit on anyone’s desk.
The 1000 supported H263 in CIF resolution, and could support freeze-frame graphics (data) in 4CIF. Calls were limited to 384 kbps.
Price, BTW, was $5500-8000.
2002: Polycom iPower 9000
In 2002 Polycom introduced the iPower 9000, featuring a new camera, a DVD drive (!), redesigned keyboard (!!) and a new hand held remote with an embedded mouse (!!!).
The 9000 had an embedded 12-port IP MCU, and sold for around $18,000.
2003: Polycom VSX 7000
The VSX featured the new and revolutionary H264 video, with up to 2Mbps and 4CIF resolution and Siren 14 Plus audio. It supported both 4:3 and 16:9, had error concealment algorithms built-in, and supported both IP, ISDN and V.35.
2005: LifeSize Room
In 2005 a talented team of video conferencing veterans shocked the video conferencing industry when they unveiled LifeSize Room, a high definition system for conferencing rooms. the room included an HD codec, an HD camera and an HD audio conference phone.
The Room offered 720p resolution at 30fps with a 1Mbps connection. It also had an 8-way MCU embedded as a standard feature. It cost $12,000.
2006: Cisco Telepresence
Cisco introduced its Telepresence product in 2006, and made Telepresence a house-hold name ever since. I believe I covered Cisco Telepresence enough here.