The "all things to all people" dilemma

Dennis J. Streveler (strev@mobius.net)
Wed, 15 May 1996 19:02:12 -0700


Wednesday afternoon

Hello,

I am having trouble keeping track of all the CUSeeMe wannabe's out there
these days. Just today, a new entrant has appeared. It is version 2.0 of
VDOPhone, which has arrived with an entirely new, rather spiffy interface
and some rather novel features:

1) It allows "random" calling to users using MAPI protocols and Microsoft
Exchange.

2) It exchanges "business cards" before you connect to the other person, so
you get some idea of who is calling.

3) It, like FreeVue, uses a web page to keep track of who is on at the
moment, (however the information available there is pretty paltry).

4) They claim good video and audio, even at 14.4, but I'll have to see it
(literally!) to believe it!

I have mixed reactions about the arrival of all of these desktop
videoconferencing products:

- CU-SeeMe
- FreeVue
- Videophone
- VDOPhone
- QuickTime Conferencing
- MeetMe (is it still around?)
(Gosh, which ones am I forgetting?)

The point is this. If all these products go head to head for the same
market, we should expect a real skirmish, and a potential bloodbath. Clearly
CU has the lead, both in number of units and in experience. Why CU
_invented_ desktop videoconferencing! But it needs to address some key
issues which surround the product as it exists today.

My thinking is that there are several rather distinct markets for such
products, and it is time that each of these products decided which market
segment(s) it should focus on. For example, the need of the person who wants
to chat with a group of strangers from around the world is very different
indeed a telemedicine teleconference where clinical data is displayed on the
whiteboard. Likewise, the needs of the distant family member trying to
communicate with a loved one is rather different than the needs of a
broadcast video of a keynote address.

All these products seem, in order to hedge their bets, to be addressing all
(or most of the market segments) but, by necessity, are not really providing
a feature set or a user-interface which is well-tuned to any one of them. It
is sort of the "all things to all people" dilemma we are facing.

Just some thoughts. I'll be interested in others reactions to VDOPhone, and
your comparisons between it and CU/ECU.

Regards,
Dennis

PS If you want to give VDOPhone a try, download it at
ftp://ftp.vdo.net/pub/vdop020.exe

--------------------------------------+------------------------------
Dennis J. Streveler, Ph.D., | Internet: strev@mobius.net
Systems Consultant | CIS: 71036,1645
| CUSeeMe: strev.mobius.net
"Future Technologies in Medicine" | web: www.usr.mobius.net/strev
+------------------------------
"International Software Development | 415 239-1441
Methodologies" | 415 469-9476 fax
+------------------------------
"Human-Computer Interface Design | 127 Lake Merced Hill
for Casual Users" | San Francisco CA 94132 USA
--------------------------------------+------------------------------
My job? To send the appropriate electrons hurtling around the globe.