From an end-user's point of view, what is the difference between telepresence and videoconferencing?
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Fussy. That word just makes us laugh for reasons we're not too sure about. It's a delicate yet powerful word, and funny-sounding. If you call one of your drinking buddies fussy, he'll stop
drinking everything and menacingly scowl at you like you just called him the worst name in the world. If you call one of your female friends fussy she'll unconsciously touch her hair and defensively ask what you mean? Fussy is one tough word to use when describing your friends, and it's only used in the context of friendship. (People who don't know each other don't directly call each other "fussy.")
Two of several meanings of "fussy" are: 1. Calling for or requiring great attention to sometimes trivial details, and, 2. Full of superfluous details. ...In this context, to all our friends in the teleconferencing, group meetings, conferencing, collaboration space, we think the word "telepresence" is fussy. That's right, "telepresence" in the realm of remote meetings and conferencing is just a fussy word to describe videoconferencing. Is it not? Telepresence systems marketed by companies in the conferencing industry are simply expensive, evolving, high-end videoconferencing systems. Are we right or wrong? Isn't telepresence just a fussy marketing term to describe the priciest videoconferencing systems? What's the fuss?
We thought about this today when reading the Wall Street Journal's article (with picture above) entitled "Better Virtual Meetings - With Pricey Cameras, Plasma Screens, 'Telepresence' Replaces Video-Conferencing. Whoa! Telepresence replaces video-conferencing? ...Well, that was in the title; this was the first sentence of the article: A new generation of high-end video-conference systems is facilitating virtual meetings that users say are almost like being there -- especially compared with conventional systems plagued by jerky video and speech that isn't synchronized with lip movements." We still don't see the difference here, and we're not sure the reporter did either as it's simply a "new generation of high-end video-conference systems." The rest of the article is laced with terms like "ordinary-videoconferencing" "videoconference room" "so-called telepresence market" "videoconference firm" and such. And here's a kicker: "Both Polycom and Tandberg base their telepresence systems on technology standards already used in videoconferencing..."
With ever decreasing hardware/software costs, decreasing bandwidth costs, improving conferencing quality, how or why should we use the term "telepresence" to, as we hear it, describe videoconferencing? We know, we know: in a competitive world, you need to differentiate, and, of course, we don't watch TV, we watch HBO. But all of this seems a little too fussy.
We sent an email around today to a few industry experts that said this: Hi, We're asking some thought leaders, including vendors, in the conferencing and collaboration industry the following question... "In 100 words or less: From an end-user's point of view, what is the difference between telepresence and videoconferencing?" ...If interested, please answer as soon as possible. Thanks."
We heard back quickly from Wainhouse Research's Andrew Davis and LifeSize says they'll get back to us soon. We'll publish their comments soon. Some others were too busy to write 100 words, but, partly due to that, we think we're onto to something with this Fussy Challenge, and we now open up the question to anyone. Again: In 100 words or less: "From an end-user's point of view, what is the difference between telepresence and videoconferencing?"
Send your answer to editors at conferencing news dot com.
September 28, 2006