C I Corporation started out as a computer instruction firm, so naturally we are very familiar with the Internet. We have performed computer training on line and actively seek out new technologies to enhance our remote classes.
One of our goals is to be able to offer training worldwide, and have the students find it as valuable as having an instructor in the room. Over the years we have bought many Web phone software packages as well as Web cams, video cameras, Snappy cards, and other gadgets.
But we have not had good enough experience with the many Web-based free phone and video options, such as:
They are free, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you have ever actually seen them, you will see that the motion is very choppy. The sound is very bad. It sounds like the other party is in a tin can 100 yards away. Often you miss words. Black and white mode is ok, but for color without a T1 or ISDN line, forget it.
If there is a lot of traffic on the Web, such as during the business day, you may not be able to connect at all. It is ok for viewing your family, friends, or associates. We use the free Web cams for communication among our consultant staff, where we don't really need a perfect picture.
But, if you are doing any type of professional presentation at your videoconference, you probably want to put your best foot forward. We have found that it would just be embarrassing to use an Internet based option. The audience would soon tire of straining to hear the words, and see the fuzzy image. After the initial novelty is over, it is distracting and just doesn't cut the mustard for business.
We are confident that with increased bandwidth, this will improve. And by the year 2005 it will probably be workable. It will depend on many more people having faster lines, such as ISDN or even T1. But this is now.
Videophones are an option you can use now, and with confidence. There is no question about the sound quality, because is will be the same quality you are used to with your standard telephone lines.
The video could use improvement. You will see tiny squares of color when people move. But if people are reasonably still, such as at a business meeting, this will not be a problem.
You can also adjust the settings to maximize clarity. Using the Medium or Small window option helps make it sharper. You can also use the Snapshot feature if there is a chart or graph you are trying to see.
Even if the picture and sound quality are the same, compare the following steps:
|1. Phone rings and you answer it||1. Phone rings and you answer it|
|2. You and your party agree to go to visual mode||2. You and your party agree to go to visual mode|
|3. Hang up (5 seconds)||3. Press # (wait about 20 seconds)|
|4. Go to your computer (which should be on)||4. Not necessary|
|5. Select icon to dial your Internet Service Provider (20 seconds) and connect (5 - 50 seconds depending on your connection)||5. Not necessary: Saves 25-70 seconds|
|6. Load your video software (eg.
|6. Not necessary: Saves 20 seconds|
|7. Select the agreed upon Directory Server and the Address of the other party or select the Speed Dial address if you have entered it before (10 seconds)||7. Not necessary: Saves 10 seconds|
|8. Select Call (10 seconds)||8. Not necessary: Saves 10 seconds|
|9. Enter and wait to connect (5-30 seconds)
Total wait time for connection = 1 to 3 minutes
|9. Not necessary: Saves 5-30 seconds
Total time saved = 70-170 sec. (1 to 3 minutes)
Which one would you want to use on a regular basis for every call?
Which one could you do from a hotel while travelling?
Another advantage is that the Videophone is very portable. You could use it at a hotel. Most hotels have TVs and a phone with standard outlets. To use Web based techniques, you would need a laptop computer and a modem line connector for the phone.
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