Video Telephones: Less Than the Jettsons And Way Beyond Skype

vidtel.jpgThe futuristic vision of picking up the phone and seeing the person on the other end, is here. It’s been here for years, in one way or the other and as I recall AT&T had some futuristic telephones with voice and picture service many years ago.
For many of us, the aspect of traditional telephones with embedded video calling has given way to video calling with Skype, ooVoo or some other service.
Vidtel has a “real phone solution” that lets you use your own telephone number and pick up the phone and call anyone, just like your normal phone. If you want to SEE the other person, then you need the person you are calling to have a corresponding video phone.
The rates are quite competitive, with two plans currently offered:: $15 or $25 a month. With the higher plan you get unlimited calling to Canada and throughout the USA. The phone system, $200 each, is pretty simple to setup.
Mariette Johnson Wharton, VP of Marketing for Vidtel answers some questions which will hopefully help you clarify if a video telephone is for you.
Why not use free service like Skype, OoVoo, or others?
It’s hard to compete with free, but on the other hand, people often pay for convenience and superior quality, which is what we offer. The quality of web-based chat services is uneven and unpredictable. We operate the network at the core and for business users, provision an on-premises quality-of-service box that prioritizes the video phone calls. Users of web-based services often note that there is an inconvenience factor with scheduling web chat. With our service, right now we’re based on a dedicated device – just pick it up and dial. As easy as a regular phone call. Thirdly, not everyone is tech-savvy enough to cope with installation issues or incompatibility with web cams, etc. In fact 99% of the population does not use Skype. Our service also does regular phone calls so it’s all you need for telecom.
AT&t tried the video phone so many years ago, but it never took off – what’s the difference now.
Great question! It’s a completely different ball game now. In the mid-1990s when AT&T tried it, the phones were cost-prohibitive at $1500. That alone would have predicted low penetration. Ours is $199.95 and the quality is much better. Bandwidth was a problem back then. Dial-up speeds were slow so the user experience was terrible (the video was choppy and the audio quality was also poor). Today, broadband connectivity is widespread and fast. Calls on our network are smooth, full-motion video and high-quality audio in sync with the video.


Why make the system “closed” so that only Vidtel phone users can communicate? Any thought to have it open in some way?
We completely agree. Our aim is to be the first to create an open system. Today, the proprietary nature of Skype and others means that people can’t talk to each other on different networks. Our vision is turn all of that on its head and create universal video calling, so that any device (e.g., mobile phones, different kinds of video phones, gaming systems, TVs) interoperates with any network (e.g., Skype, iChat, GoogleTalk, Polycom video conferencing). We are moving on that today and will be interoperating with mobile phones and web-based chat like Skype, GoogleTalk and Polycom later in 2009.
Who would buy this phone system? What type of business and what uses?
Small-to-medium-sized businesses who are not able to afford $50,00-$100,000 video conferencing systems (and then the staff to support them) are using our services to conduct business meetings face-to-face. As examples, we have a high-tech business with an engineering office in Bangalore that is using it. They considered spending thousands of dollars on video conferencing but choose our service instead. They are planning to use it with multiple business partners. Another business with 3 offices is using it for staff meetings and for remote video reception (one office takes the calls for the other 2 less-trafficked offices). A few other businesses are professional services firms and are using it to communicate with clients.
Can there be multi-phone system connectivity – or only one to one.
Our current system is point-to-point but we will be adding multi-phone connectivity later this year. We’re working on it now.

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

2 thoughts on “Video Telephones: Less Than the Jettsons And Way Beyond Skype

  1. peter a. howley

    WOW, sign me up! I was peripherally involved in the original AT&T picturephone trial with Union Carbide in NYCity and Chicago way back in the 1960’s. Later with two other efforts, both awkward systems. Vidtel has put simplicity where it belongs, up front! Make it easy and reasonably priced and the crowds will line up! In this global diversified cost conscious economy we need video communications more than ever. And Vidtel seems to have the answer. Sign me up!

  2. Jeannie

    Hi,
    TANDBERG announced the TANDBERG Quick Set C20 today, an HD video conferencing solution designed specifically to meet the unique needs of SMBs that you mentioned in your post. We believe that SMBs will lead the way out of the economic downturn and video conferencing provides a distinct advantage by enabling them to save money, be more productive and make the most of their time and limited staff. The Quick Set C20 is easy to use, secure and will work with any standards based product, so users are not locked in by proprietary technology, such as the example you discuss in your post. See how TANDBERG SMB customers are using video conferencing and learn more about TANDBERG’s video solutions here http://www.tandberg.com/vcb/start-small-and-grow.jsp?cid=04US060060008
    Cheers!
    Jeannie.McPherson@TANDBERG.com

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