Video and Tradeshows are Tools
Alec raises the question: how should the communications industry treat video? I will get to this in a moment, bear with me.
What caused Alec to raise this question was a posting by Tom Keating about how the VON trade show has shifted it's focus from voice to video. In this article, he quotes a blog posting by Eric Chamberlin from Voxilla about how he felt it wasn't an effective use of resources. Funny how Tom thought that opinion was Voxilla's opinion when both a personal conversation with Voxilla founder Marcelo Rodriguez and a blog posting by Lonnie Lazar clearly refute that assertion.
The numbers for the VON trade show may have, in fact, been down. I don't know, and quite frankly, I don't particularly care. Beyond a certain point, what matters isn't the number of people showing up. What matters is the business value of the people that do. What I suspect is happening is that less of the people that shouldn't be at VON aren't showing up, leaving more room (and more time) to deal with the people that should be there.
Let me approach this with a different example. Let's say I have a series of product that has a potential market of, say, 400 customers. That doesn't sound like a lot of customers, you say. And if the customers were the average person, you'd be right. But what if I told you that product was geared at mobile phone carriers worldwide? Each one of those 400 customers is worth buckets and buckets of money. Even getting a handful of those customers would keep you in business for many years to come.
So the real question is: if the attendance at VON is going down, is the value of those attending VON going up, and is it enough to cover the difference? My guess is probably yes, though I have no hard evidence to back that claim up. As long as VON continues to be an effective tool for both the ehxibitors and the attendees, it will continue to exist. Now, back to video. Video is a form of communication that, until very recently, didn't make sense to communicate over an IP network. Between the rise of broadband and high-quality codecs to compress the video, it is very possible to communicate over an IP-based network using video. Jeff sees the writing on the wall and decided to embrace it as part of VON.
If the goal is IP Communications, Video and Video are simply means to achieving that goal. While it is clear that voice over IP isn't going away anytime soon, I think how we will ultimately make use of video over IP remains an open question. However, I trust that there are plenty of innovators out there ready, willing, and able to make it happen.
Let me put my feelings about video over IP very simply: if you are not looking at video as part of IP communications, and thus not following the developments in this area, you are making a big mistake.