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Stranded? Turn To Video Conferencing

Starting in 2005 and up until their sale in 2008, my agency represented SightSpeed, one of the pioneering companies in the personal video conferencing space. Since their acquisition by the Swiss consumer electronics giant, SightSpeed has become VID on a personal level, while still maintaining a six party client for their business product, something we helped introduce for them back in 2007. The recent global travel disruption was the kind of event their past CEO and my good friend, Peter Csathy, now leading Sorenson Media, would have relished.

Csathy, was a big proponent of avoiding travel, and promoting the use of video calling to "see" his partners, team and colleagues, all from his San Diego home office. For the entire time we worked with the East Bay based company, the number of times I ever had to "go" to their office was really zero. While I dropped by a few times, every interaction that was necessary was carried on by video calling or the occasional face-to-face meeting in San Diego with Peter, as we live just a few miles apart.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, stranded travelers have turned now to video conferencing. I guess Peter and I can both say, "we told you so."

Now, lets fast-forward almost two years. Skype has taken the battle for video calling full on, and is regularly reporting how many video sessions are held by their users, on a percentage basis. Depending which set of information one uses, the number is either in the high 30 percent or low forty percent range. According to Skype’s PR folks, their users have made over 20 million minutes more video calls than normal in five days, roughly the same time it would take to make over 2000 trips to the moon, and back - or the same time as more than 2.5 million flights from London to New York

That's MASSIVE. And it’s steadily growing, even without a natural disaster. More and more people, including everyone from Oprah to the news networks, are turning to Skype to be the "carrier" in the middle for one to one video calling. Gone are the days where someone had to "look" TV ready to make a video call. You see, Skype has made video calling "personal," something SightSpeed under Csathy and his colleagues, Scott Lomond and Aron Rosenberg initiated. But sheer numbers are on Skype's side.

As I'm writing this post, some 21 million Skype users are on line (it's not even 7 AM on the west coast) and likely by the peak time of 9 AM here that number will swell to likely something closer to 25 million and maybe more (I've seen over 29 million users online at the same time.) That massive audience is not yet all webcam enabled either. So when you take the fact that roughly 40 percent of Skype's traffic today involves video calling, and then factor in the addressable audience out of some roughly 500 million Skype users, but only 1/3rd or less (my guess) have built in webcams, you can see that the upside for Skype, and the webcam manufacturers, is equally massive in the months ahead.

Now add in the news coverage around the volcano, and the realization that business continuity can be maintained face to face using video conferencing, and you'll quickly realize that for everyone in the game, from the Ciscos, Tandbergs, Polycoms, Glowpoints, Vidtels and yes, Logitech and Skype are all going to benefit from nature's untimely eruption.

Earlier this year I tabbed "2010 the year video communications explodes for Skype". I guess, I should have said "erupts."


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