Bad video conferencing demo



Preamble
After some thought, I decided to remove the company and product names from this post. Since it was a wildly bad demo, it’s probably best to preserve the guilty.

The story
I recently went to a lunch and learn for a product line of a video conferencing company. Going in, I thought it was going to cover their entire product line and I really wanted to see their hardware in action. It turned out to be 99% discussion of their software product and not one codec was brought to the event.

The seminar, for lack of a better word, connected the presenter’s laptop through their software over wifi with a desktop in the same room that was connected to a large tv. Also connected was someone in an office elsewhere in the building and the next door conference room complete with three incredibly tiny people. They also allowed anyone with an iPhone or iPad to connect, and they did so without being told to turn their volumes down or to mute their microphones. Yes, we got the dreaded echo loop a few times. Frame rate all around was obscenely low. 10fps low. Luckily (?) most of the presentation was via PowerPoint and not showcasing the poor video quality. The presentation was readable, so I guess that was nice.

About having a presentation
Yes, it was a lunch and learn, but people unmuted on video should not be eating, especially if they have no speaking part to play in the demonstration. These people were from the company hosting the event and they should have been instructed what to do and not do to put their best foot forward.

The presentation touched on the company’s room products (apparently that’s the term for a camera and a codec today). The presenter however was not concerned with discussing the good vs bad comparison with a room over software, only that hardware is going the way of the dodo. Video and audio quality between the two, which we all know is superior with hardware, was not discussed. I guess that makes sense if the goal of the presentation was to sell the desktop product.

Sidebar
One interesting comment came about from a two second discussion on their (ahem) telepresence product. The presenter said that Cisco invented “Immersive Telepresence”. Of course, the audience probably didn’t know what Immersive Telepresence meant so who invented it won’t matter to anyone. Anyone but me. We all know, or should know that DVE and Telesuite originated it. I will leave out my subjective opinion that 3-screen systems aren’t immersive anyway. Oh wait, I just said it.

Sidebar 2
The company owner chimed in with an awesome use case for video conferencing, one that I will repeat for as long as I remain in this business. He said that a landscaper could give his crew an iPad so they could video a job when it was complete and the owner didn’t have to be onsite to see their work. The audience bought into this. However, no one put two and two together that this landscaper would have to spend $30,000 or more for this capability with their product. If any landscaping company spent $30k on video conferencing I would like to sell them my collection of used rakes for his crew at the low price of $5,000 for the set. I’d even throw in a free bag of fertilizer courtesy of my dogs.

To sum up:
Pricing, other than the company’s MCU was not discussed because the software is FREE! Due to quality, necessity of infrastructure hardware and cost of that, I can’t recommend this unnamed product. The software was attempted to be sold and they made it sound like it was a standalone product. Of course I had to ask the question if their bridge was required to use the ‘free’ software. Unfortunately, you cannot just use the software product. You must buy (tens of) thousands of dollars’ worth of hardware to use their software or license ports and minutes from someone else who invested in the hardware.

This was a supreme case of how not to demonstrate a product. Then again, I’m certain the audience wasn’t full of know it all smart asses like yours truly. I really wanted to have 10 minutes to talk to the audience about what they just saw. Not in a jack ass way, but a way that would help them understand their options because these products are NOT one size fits all. Company A’s video conferencing needs are most likely completely different than Company B’s.

I did get a free Jimmy Johns turkey sub and that somehow almost made the whole ordeal bearable.

Bryan
Hellard Design