This past year ushered in the era of mobile in unified communications, with the proliferation of front-facing camera tablets fueling the fire.
Video-ready tablets are making their way into the enterprise market at a rapid clip, where one in five businesses have already deployed iPads or other tablets, and 78% plan to deploy them by the end of 2013, according to a recent Dimensional Research survey.
The bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend provides enterprises with a new option for expanding video conferencing beyond the executive suite and the conference room. Over the past year, video conferencing vendors have launched apps that enable tablets to double as video conferencing endpoints. These apps allow enterprises to leverage their existing hardware for video conferencing, much like PC-based software clients for laptops.
Although the prevailing thinking these days is that tablets and PCs will free enterprises from the traditional need for executive-desktop video conferencing systems altogether, dedicated devices remain indispensable in conferencing room settings where huddling around a laptop or tablet doesn’t play well.
Nevertheless, tablets and their PC-based counterparts vastly minimize the upfront hardware cost of video conferencing and enable mobility, thereby bringing video conferencing across the enterprise and paving a new era of democratized video conferencing. For small and medium enterprises (SMEs), tablet apps are a way to get in the video conferencing game.
For large enterprises, tablet apps provide a low-cost way to extend video conferencing throughout their organization, instead of limiting the service to conference rooms and executive suites. In the process, tablet apps enable larger enterprises to maximize the value of their investment in video conferencing.
Untethered, interoperable access is the key
For both SMEs and large enterprises, tablet apps also mean that video conferencing no longer is limited to their offices or to $1,500-plus laptops. Instead, employees with sub-$500 tablets now can participate in videoconferences from client sites, hotel rooms, airport lounges and other remote locations.
When developing a video conferencing strategy, enterprises of every size shouldn’t overlook the importance of interoperability, especially between different video conferencing vendors and disparate platforms.
For example, enterprises are increasingly choosing cloud-based solutions, where a service provider hosts expensive, complex infrastructure such as bridges, freeing the enterprise from the cost of buying and managing that hardware and software.
The ideal cloud-based solution goes a step further and resolves network, software and hardware differences, enabling video conferences in which some users are on tablets, others are participating from PCs and still others are in conference rooms.
In this scenario, the video conference should be reliable, high-quality and user-friendly regardless of whether some participants are using a video conferencing room system, videoconferencing app on their tablet, Skype on a tablet or GoogleTalk on a Mac or PC.
Finally, the ideal cloud video conferencing solution also should allow tablet users to participate even when their wireless connection is as slow as 100 kbps. That capability makes mobile videoconferencing a viable option when using Wi-Fi or 3G/4G cellular.