Coming Soon: Free Video Conferencing From Google. This was the headline of a recent ZDNet story by Garrett Rogers. Garett based his prediction on an interview with Rishi Chandra, a Google Apps product manager, on SFGate. There, Mr. Chandra said that “launching a voice or video chat session should flow seamlessly within Gmail and mesh organically with the other Apps” and “should be embedded in the core experience across the application set”.
Google’s voice and video communication capabilities are limited to peer-to-peer communication, but Mr. Chandra says:
“This [current Gmail capability] is the first step in a much broader set of features we hope to roll out over the next six to 12 months around video [and voice] capabilities. It’s a great opportunity for us to push the space along.”
Google’s current video calling interface. Source: Google.
Today the Google video calling product is part of Gmail, meaning you need to have your browser open, pointing to the Gmail page, to make your presence available and receive incoming calls. You also have to specifically install the video chat capabilities. Furhtermore, Google has not launched the multi-party conferencing ability yet. The result is that although Google holds the promise to become a potential market disrupter, we will have to wait for that promise to happen.
Google Video Conferencing Is Not Evil
But why waste good posts on negativity? This is Tsahi’s job. Instead, I would rather discuss how Google’s plans for further investment in video conferencing are an opportunity for the whole market, a much-needed step even. And I’ll explain.
I’ve been writing here a lot about a need for a change of mind. For video conferencing to become a relevant, viable means of communication, it has to be regarded as such by the public. The public, not just the video conferencing industry, IT managers or early adopters and tech savvy geeks. Cisco has been doing the industry a lot of good by intensely marketing the video conferencing concept, but its focus is on the high-end Telepresence.
Like it or not, technology adoption is not rational. SMS messages (texting), intended for Service Providers’ personnel, were adopted by young teens and became the next big thing, both in terms of participation and monetization. Instant messaging was regarded as a pass-time activity a few years ago, but became so popular in our homes, that it was adopted by every organization as a legitimate communication means. And I can go on with such examples for hours.
Companies like Skype and Microsoft, with their video-enabled IM clients, Nokia or Samsung, with their video-enabled handsets, have brought video to the masses, but not the masses to video. If Google is successful in changing that, making everyone use video calling as a natural means of engagement, like chatting or e-mail, the adoption of video conferencing elsewhere, especially in the corporate world, is just a matter of time.
Just take a look at the huge BANG Google has pulled off with its Google Wave introduction (much ado about nothing?). Now replace “Wave” with “Video Conferencing” and everyone who is anybody in our industry will have his mouth running…
Conferencing Gadget in Google Wave. Source: Technorati.
And Technical Opportunities Too…
For the peer-to-peer video calling Google is said to be using the technology licensed from Vidyo. Two years ago Google acquired Marratech to “enable from-the-desktop participation… in videoconference meetings”.
When Google says “free”, they actually mean “free as long as we can monetize it alternatively”, and Google is the expert in analyzing our personal information and redirecting it to advertisers. So how would Google be using Video Conferencing for this purpose? One can only speculate.
A simple, yet not trivial, solution would be to transcribe the conference, and use this information to display relevant ads during or after the conference. Speech recognition technologies have really advanced in recent years, and this is not as fictional as it may seem – They have been doing it for Google Video for a long time.
And what about displaying those ads? Will Google invest in new technologies of embedding text and images into the video, or will they use the “simpler” ply model? They have been investing in this front with online non-real-time video, with no real success up until this day as far as I can see, but it would be very interesting to see if this will change with real-time visual communications.
And what about the traits that brought Google fame and fortune?
- Archiving and Retrieval – Will they store our conferences like they do with our e-mails and chats? Will they revolutionize the way we use video conferencing in that sense?
- Search – Will they use their search technologies for audio and video? Will they have to come up with new stuff?
- UI Design – Google is known for their slick-yet-simple product design. Will that change the way users use video conferencing?
via Jennifer Allen
And so you see – I fear not Google’s play in “my” space or any Google death ray. On the contrary – If Sergey and Eric join John as leading promoters of visual communications, the industry as a whole will benefit tremendously. Sure, the competition may be more intense, but I prefer more competition over a giant market than a limited one over a niche domain.
So I will await the Google Multi-party Video Conferencing. I am sure it will do no evil.