Yesterday I saw that VoicePulse is adding a videophone to their line up. Today Vonage made a similar announcement, making the game more interesting, placing the upstart New Jersey company in direct competition now with the long standing IP videophone leader Packet 8, and to some degree going in a direction that is hardware based, not software based like using XTEN's EyeBeam software and a camera on a PC, the approach I think offers greater flexibility.
With Vonage going video, as well as VoicePulse, both companies are traveling into what really is uncharted waters. Equally perplexing is the fact that to date not one of the companies has announced a software based solution that lets people on the other end of the call, who may not have a camera available to see the originator on camera.
There are also issues around camera phones that may be harder to overcome than simply by rolling them out, and those issues are more habitual or socially based. For example, I like to work a few hours in the morning in my sweats, or less, before I shave, shower. I make phone calls, blog, write and sometimes do work around the home office offline. There are days where I don't hit the showers until just before I have to leave for appointments out of the home office. So, at no point in time would I want to be on the videophone. But you see, having one all of a sudden leads to either the desire to primp or for the person to now be "ON."
Being on is not a state we want to be at all the time. That's why newscasters who work 8 to 10 hour days hate the make up part of the gig. It's time that has to be taken, but really takes away from what they do. Read the news and understand the stories. I think Videophones have a place, but right now, in the business environment they will likely be more of a "novelty" or distraction.
My second concern with them is akin to how companies are banning camera phones in the work place for a variety of reasons. Why wouldn't a similar edict begin to be applied to laptop and desktop cameras as well as videophones.
My third concern is interoperability. Not one of the companies has said that their videophones will be interoperable with other carriers, but I anticipate that this will become a when, more than an "if" otherwise the VoIP/VoVOIP-Video over VoIP-will face a balkanization of a fledgling industry.
Also looming on the horizon is Skype and their possible entry into the space as well. If Skype, which has more users than any VoIP platform really using the service, lives up to their previously expressed potential entry into VoIP, then why would anyone want to pay Vonage, which offers zero QoS or SLA guarantees, or even P8 or VoicePulse.
One thing I learned a long time ago, is be great at what you do, before you tackle another area. All Vonage has proved is they are great at selling VoIP, not delivering a mission critical product offering. Now they want to add a second service offering. They better address their infrastructure before they want to take their customers to "Prime Time."
Lastly, the idea of videophones has been around since the 1964 World's Fair. If video phones had a market