Web-conferencing is growing, growing, growing. Here’s why…

Apple does it, Google does it, Microsoft and Adobe do it, it seems everyone’s at it these days, are you? Oh be still with your naughty innuendos we’re talking about webcasting, what else?

[Remember when those little Apple web transmissions kept the tech world interested? Here’s a little clip showing the introduction of the iPod.]

Forward fast

It wasn’t so long ago when an Apple live (or more recently ‘post-live’) event stream was a bit of a rarity. It seemed fans of that company almost lived for the chance to stare at a mini-Steve Jobs dancing in that little QuickTime window. It was the thin end of the wedge, even then hardworking elfin engineers were working hard to deliver video codecs that combined the twin pearls of lossless compression and low bandwidth.

That future is now, with an array of video and audio conferencing tools out there for almost any use, from consumer arrays such as FaceTime to Skype video sessions (soon to be included in the box with Microsoft Office 13) and Adobe Connect.

There’s many, many more — particularly in the enterprise space the big names (Oracle, et al) offer up packages designed for everything from face-to-face conferencing with document collaboration to full-scale, full-site video asset and conferencing deployments.

[Adobe explains the advantages of Adobe Connect 9 for business, government and end users.]

Virtually being there

At the high-end of the market you’re talking about deeply secure transmissions, hosted on the company’s own servers for exchange of perhaps the most confidential information and hush-hush discussion between the leading lights within the firm.

Enterprise users in particular are jumping excitedly upon the Unified Communications bandwagon, seeking out its promised enhancements in productivity. That’s why 95 percent of CIOs think presence and availability solutions are so important. In other words, the value of video webcasting isn’t just about B2C communications, but also in B2B and internal business transactions.

Adobe in June introduced Adobe Connect 9, which offers up all manner of ways to create company-controlled and branded web conferencing tools, including analytics, engagement tools, document sharing, collaboration and more.

These solutions aren’t just for enterprise users and corporate meetings; nor are they for consumers wanting to spend a little quality time staring at the video representations of people they happen to be speaking to in chat rooms and the like. There’s lots of uses, take:

  • TED talks
  • Online education sessions
  • Viral advertising and marketing
  • Medicine — your virtual doctor
  • Conventional broadcasting online
  • And so many more

A greener way to save money and time

Why do companies like it? Webcasting is relatively cheap. It enables firms to deliver their message to their target group at relatively low cost while still retaining control of what’s being revealed.

You can host a global summit of key players within your company/industry without requiring that anyone catch a train, plane or automobile. The US Travel Association reported that 31 percent of business travelers used videoconferencing in 2008 to replace at least one business trip (Bell, 2011).

That’s a cost saving in the short term and also goes a little way toward reducing a company’s environmental shadow by cutting fuel usage. On average, firms switching to unified communications solutions (which usually includes videoconferencing) see their travel costs dip by 20 percent.

“The need for companies to reduce their travel costs while maintaining communication with their workers and clients will drive the European video conferencing endpoints market,” notes Frost & Sullivan analyst Iwona Petruczynik. “Increasingly stringent environmental policies imposed by the European Parliament will also promote market development.”

All about contact

Webcasting opens opportunities for fully productive remote working; it can even transform business efficiency by making key personnel available at the times you need them.

Just to grab a recent example from within the education industry, the University of Auckland is now able to directly connect with over 250 schools in New Zealand using Sonic Foundry’s MediaSite webcasting suite, with the institution admitting itself to be saving “thousands” of dollars on travel. Not to mention the time it takes to get around, which can then be used more productively in other ways.

“The webcasting market is anticipated to grow by an annual average rate exceeding 20 percent during the next five years,” says Steve Vonder Haar, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Webcasting & Streaming, Wainhouse Research.

This probably helps Cisco’s assessment that by 2013, video will account for an astonishing 90 percent of all Internet traffic.

Web-conferencing is here to stay. Are you and your company making good use of it? Let us know in comments below.

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