March 30, 2017

Enterprise Connect 2017 Day Three

Ok so I didn't get around to part two of day two's wrap up. Basically I spent it touring the booths and getting a better understanding of everyone's products. After the show was over for the day, Blue Jeans had a cocktail hour that I went to. I got to catch up with former coworkers who were also there in attendance which is nice. It seems like these shows end up being sort of like a family reunion with all the former coworkers I do run into.

On to Wednesday
Apparently, I must have slept in because I forgot what happened in the morning until I attended Google's keynote. Actually, I spent most of the morning on the phone but whatever.

Google's keynote featured G-Suite and their soon to be released Jam Board. Of all the touch screen devices that are out there, it seems like of between all of them, the Jam Board would suit my needs the best. That being said, I only partially use Google's suite of products relying mostly on Office 365 for my own business. I could see me switching to Google's services if I ever to hold of a Jam Board. I don't see myself getting a Surface Hub though. The only thing I wish Google would do is fix their video chat quality. It's been notoriously lacking in quality, lagging behind everyone else in the space. That really suprises coming from such a large company that puts time and effort into their product.

After a second or so thought about it, before I switched to Office 365, I was on Google's services and didn't like their proprietary nature of documents and spreadsheets (in favor of Microsoft's proprietary documents and spreadsheets). It disrupted my workflow and transferring documentation to a non-Google user was always a pain.

After that I headed to the Speaker Services room to get ready for my presentation. They treat speakers very well as Enterprise Connect and I was honored to be among them. I was treated to a nice lunch and coffee was available all day. Then it was off to my talk.

Our presentation of "telepresence performance on an SMB budget" ended up being a talk on cameras. Logitech, Huddly, Altia and myself with Array were the guests with Andrew Davis from Wainhouse being the host. I think it went well. My problem since I'm not in sales or marketing I tend to answer questions short and directly. It's the engineer in me that loathes long answers to short questions. I don't spin tales so I think all my answers were shorter than everyone else. I tried to make a long winded comment about integration (since our product is the only integrator friendly product) and that didn't go so well. Other than that, it was fine. Once it was over and I realized that I didn't die or make a fool out of myself it was time to relax. I spent the rest of the afternoon back on the show floor in one final review of everything. AVI-SPL had both the Surface Hub and the Spark Board in their booth and since I'm on good terms with those guys I spent a long time reviewing both of them, chcking their camera captures (it's a habit) and their other features. Of the two, I would choose Surface in a heartbeat, but would still prefer the Jam Board over all three.

That was it for the day. I got a latte and watched the world go by for the next hour of so before heading to my room for some room service and sleep.

I'm typing this on Tursday morning, where I have three more presentations to see, then it's back home this afternoon.

March 28, 2017

Enterprise Connect 2017 Day Two

Today I took a longer stroll through the trade show, but first it was a lecture, a talk and a keynote to kick things off.

First off was a lecture about endpoints. Of course, since I'm in video conferencing, I assumed "endpoint" meant codec. Oops, it was about desk phones. Anyway since I manage a place with five actuall, real life desk phones on copper lines, I thought I would stay. I really appreciated Micheal Frendo's comments, but took it with a grain of salt since Polycom sells desk phones. One thing I refuse to do is call something dead. I don't believe they are dead, especially since I have them.

After that was an end user talk which was very interesting to listen to. Of course, the end users were enterprises and their problems are entirely different than mine. They seemed to be looking for one solution (or provider) but have difficulties. Team chat apps came up and right behind it was their security. Apps may have encryption but the problem lies with what the users do with the content they download to their devices. One security breach is a security breach.

Next up was Jens Megger's keynote from Cisco. He talked about their new codec and the spark board. One humorous thing he said was commenting on how immersive a point to point call between two Spark Boards were. I only found it funny since I don't personally consider the experience anywhere near immersive. He used a slide titled "Experiences matter", which I thought was interesting since I've used the phrase "The Experience Matters" for at least 5-7 years now.

Then it was back to the show. One thing I typically do is ask vendors how long their product has been available. Several times today, the answer was "as of today". That's cool.

I spent quite a bit of time in Zoom's booth and it seems like of all the players in the soft codec world, they are making the biggest strides, biggest improvements and most innovations. I applaud them for that. Some vendors have put out a product and said "here you go" and that's about it. Not Zoom. This is why they are at the top of my list of favorite soft codecs.

March 27, 2017

Enterprise Connect 2017 Day One

Day one is a wrap at Enterprise Connect and here are the highlights.

My day started with the Innovation Showcase presented by Dave Michels. The best thing I got from that is learning about Kaptivo which is a fantastic new solution for everyday whiteboards. Kaptivo captures your existing whiteboard and allows a remote user to log in via a web browser to see what is being written. It de-warps the whiteboard and transmits only the content being written and not people, shadows, hands, etc. For $399, it's an absolute winner for those using traditional whiteboards. It's shipping now

Next was "Taking video to the next level" with panelists from Neureva, Cisco, Polycom, Oblong and Zoom. It was a standing room only crowd. Literally. The most interesting thing about it was when Andrew Davis asked if anyone hadn't heard of Zoom, there was quite a show of hands. That's surprising given the assumed level of the audience. It makes me wonder if anyone will know about Array when my presentation takes place on Wednesday.

That was it for the lectures I wanted to attend for the day, so I slept until the trade show opened. It only took two hours to do my broad brush overview and to hit the things on my list which mainly was cameras. I was surprised that NEC wasn't showing their new Infinity Board despite having a large booth presence. Zoom's booth had both a Huddly and Panacast cameras so I got to check their image quality out. Logitech had their Brio so I took in a demo of its features. It's an amazing camera.

Random notes:
Yealink did not have any codecs in their booth (that I saw).
Cisco's new codec/camera solution is quite impressive in features but not so much in looks. I do not care for cameras integrated into speakerbars. It absolutely limits the installed location. It does voice switch much faster than Speaker Track.
Polycom's EagleEye Director 2 was nice, but it still takes too long for switching.
There are a ton of UC apps, but in all honesty I can't tell them apart. I'll dive deeper into those tomorrow.

That's it for today!

March 21, 2017

The video conference experience matters

While browsing LinkedIn, I came across two pictures in my feed. Both are actual video conferences and NOT marketing pictures. What you should immediately notice is the striking differences between the two experiences in this tiny snapshot of time.

The first picture is of a meeting using a Cisco MX700. Here are some bullet points:
1. Zoom in real close and look at the self view. This is what the other end point is looking at.
1a. SpeakerTrack may be in use and the guy may have just finished talking. The world will never know. Worst case scenario is that the camera was panned, tilted and zoomed and just left here.
2. Notice how the far end point is not engaged in the meeting (probably because they can only see one person and he isn't looking at them). No one is even looking at the displays.
3. The camera captures the people in a line (due to camera location and table used) and unless the people lean forward or back, they will be obscured by the people closer to the camera.
4. If my Googling is correct, this solution is $50,000

Unfortunately, this is a typical video conference.

The guy in blue looks very familiar

Now notice the meeting in the second picture.
1. It's a fixed camera solution that captures the whole room.
2. People are the same size on screen and highly visible.
3. Note that both rooms are standard conference rooms with typical tables.
4. Both rooms are set up correctly for video conferencing regarding lighting and windows.
5. If there were more people in the room, the camera is placed at such a location that everyone would be visible to the remote site.

You can probably put this all together for less than $20,000 (displays, codec, camera, control system)

Setting up your conference room using best practices creates a much better overall experience. Using the right tools for the job increases that level of experience. The answer is clear to me.

For total disclosure, if you already don't know by now, I work for Array Telepresence which is the company that makes the product experience shown in the lower picture.

March 19, 2017

Enterprise Connect 2017

This year will mark my second visit to Enterprise Connect, located at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando. Two years ago, I was there as an exhibitor. This year I will be there as a speaker. Two years ago I didn't have time (nor the credentials it turned out) to go to any of the lectures. This year, I'm going to be in lectures most of the time, but making sure to visit the show floor as well and take in everything.

There are several new products that have popped up recently to look at, including several new cameras. New imaging technology is always cool to see and it looks like we're finally getting away from HUGE/ugly set top camera systems.

The cool:
The main reason for going this year was the invite to speak about telepresence technology. I was honored for the invitation and will be alongside representatives from Logitech, Huddly and Altia Systems to discuss attempted telepresence at a SMB price point. I'm not sure exactly how much speaking I will be doing as Andrew Davis from Wainhouse will be handling the presentations. As far as I can gather, my role is to answer any questions or provide clarification on the products from Array.

What would be cool is to have a debate between all four of us regarding the pros and cons of our products but I'm about 8003% sure that won't happen. It would also be fun to debate actual telepresence, which in my opinion Array is only company of the four that can deliver it with products currently on the market. That could get extremely long winded on my part and could be a day long affair. That being said I would like to debate someone from both Cisco and Polycom simply to ask them why they think 3 screen systems make any sense. Ok, ok.

The bad:
In a blog I wrote after the last Enterprise Connect, I was dismayed at the actions of some people regarding inappropriate behavior after having too much to drink. I hope that doesn't happen this year. I wouldn't want to cause a ruckus by doing something I may regret to some drunk jackass who thinks it's funny to treat women with disrespect. A lot of alcohol was thrown around on the show floor and I don't know that this has changed. It's just disappointing that some people don't know their own limitations (or don't care).

The good:
I'm excited to be staying at Gaylord too! Last time, there were several of us that rented an AirBnB house. Since it's just me and I'm not renting a car, it actually made financial sense to stay on-site.

So anyway, if you see me there say 'hi' and I may just ramble on about video conferencing until you're sick of it. Attend my lecture while you're at it. If you're not going feel free to reach out to me about all things telepresence anyway.

February 21, 2017

Persistent Group Chat

Persistent group chat apps like Slack and Spark are starting to dominate the conversation of unified communications. Are they that good? I'll let you find your own fluff blog posts hailing them as the next big thing (rendering everything else dead I assume). This takes a look at the other side, since it's rarely discussed.

February 20, 2017

Why Calling a Technology Dead is Stupid

Yet another instance flashed in front of my Twitter feed calling something dead.

Rest in Peace, oh product that I do not sell

February 17, 2017

Cloud vs On-Prem

In the past few days, I've seen this graphic come across my eyes on LinkedIn so I felt it necessary to comment on it. One can only assume it was drawn by a marketing person for some cloud computing organization. If someone knows its origin, let me know and I will give credit.

February 14, 2017

Amazon Chime - is this the killer app?

Today, Amazon released Chime, it's entry into Unified Communication.

I proceeded to download the app for my iPhone and after an email verification using my existing Amazon account, I was met with a clean interface.

There are three tiers of pricing and upon a quick check, I have absolutely no idea of the tier I am on. One can only hope and assume that I'm on the basic, free tier. Amazon already has all my credit card information as I routinely purchase damn near everything from them already.

Amazon has little to lose, yet much to gain in this space. Most other UCaaS providers have much to lose however if Chime gains wide adoption. Further testing needs done on my part to determine if Chime will come close to my personal expectation. Stay tuned.

You can't turn off self view in the iPhone app. This is bad. Video quality is quite good and puts Spark to shame on a quick test basis. I obviously couldn't test audio due to the dreaded echo loop.

Also of note, I could not launch a call from the browser in either Safari or Chrome on my MacBook Air. I had to download the OSx app which couldn't be done from the call in webpage, even though there was a link. I had to go back to Chime's main page to find the app, install it and run it. Upon further review, it appears that you can't do video from a browser, you can join a meeting and see data, bot no video. You need the app for that.

February 12, 2017

Tips to look better on video

Here are some quick tips to look better for your next video chat - think Lights! Camera! Action!

Tip 1 - Lights
If the other person can't see you, you may as well just have a phone call. Fill your space with enough light to show your face. Be aware that natural light probably isn't the best.

Tip 2 - Camera
Look at your self view before the video chat. Make sure your whole face is in the camera's capture.

Tip 3 - Action
Keep your device steady. Don't have your laptop literally on your lap and don't run around house while video chatting on your phone. Think about what the other person is looking at.