Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cisco releases H.264 royalty free. Does it matter?

My personal thoughts on A.E. Natarajan, EVP of Engineering at Polycom's post  and the Cisco announcement about making H.264 available royalty free (or rather paying the MPEG licensing costs): 


I've seen Polycom releasing codecs codecs royalty free for long time: 
  • 1999 – audio codec Siren 7 to the ITU  (became G.722.1) 
  • 2005 – audio codec Siren 14  to the ITU (became G.722.1C)
  • 2008 – audio codec Siren 22 to the ITU  (became G.719)
  • 2012— video codec H.264SVC royalty free (through UCIF)
It's nice for Cisco to start doing the same-- for acting like they want to make voice and video interoperable and not just saying they support it. 

Interoperability is good.  Imagine if a Verizon cell phone couldn't call a cell phone on AT&T, or an iPhone couldn't call a Android.  That's bad for the users.  

The video space is still rapidly expanding.  New products are being taken to market by startups.   Free helps drive innovation. 

IMHO, whether WebRTC uses H.264 or VP8; H.265 or VP9 as the underlying codecs probably in the long term won't matter much for the users. However, given that we still have video devices that are almost old enough to drive in the real world, that "long term" can be a long time away.  

Video thought leaders like Polycom will need to ensure we build solutions that continue to make video as easy to use as clicking a hyperlink, dialing a phone, or saying "Siri, call my boss video."  Full integration with calendaring and social, mobile and cloud are a must -- and transcoding when necessary without user intervention. 

What ever the magic in the codecs, it's still the user experience that matters: 
 -- Simple. Secure. Supportable. Scalable. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rediscovering the power of visual communications

The day before Julie Reed of IBM came out with her blog post: Confessions of a camera-shy product manager ... I lead a webinar with David Price.  It's made me think.  I realized that I'm not destined to be a radio announcer.  I like need crave the two-way interaction in my communications.  Conventional wisdom is that somewhere around 80% of all communication is visual.  If you're in the room with me, I get that communication.  If we're separated by distance, I need technology to get it.  If we're on audio, then I miss the interaction.

Leading a training session is all about interactivity, all about working towards a common goal (which in this case was education.)  On a webinar, you read the script and share, teach, opine, or somehow try and get the message across.  You can't look into your attendee's eyes and see if they're confused.  You can't see if they're engaged. It's truly one-way communication.  I'm a radio announcer.

Maybe it's the teacher in me and maybe I've become spoiled with the interactivity and feedback from living in Polycom's two way video world.. Either way, I'm not sure I want to lead a webinar again.  I just don't feel I can do a good job unless I can see people paying attention, laughing at my corny jokes, and maybe even learning.

After all; which would you rather see?  A microphone or smiling faces?