Desktop video and its obstacles for collaborative work
As companies go international or decentralize, there is an urgent need to complement store-and-forward, multimedia communication via electronic mail or the World Wide Web with real-time collaborative tools that facilitate interaction and the sharing of concepts, resources, and information objects. Desktop video conferencing is supposed to be a step ahead: audio, video, whiteboards, and application sharing look promising because a big part of daily conversation, communication, and cooperation is person-to-person or within small groups with a fixed number of participants. Distinctive products are on the market and it seems to be an easy task to establish a regular, reliable service for everybody in a company who wishes to cooperate and communicate in real time. It seems natural to use the already existing Internet or the company-internal Intranet as an underlying infrastructure for videoconferencing. The Internet today allows one to download a 30-minute video with full color, full motion, with a screen resolution about equal to NTSC, digitized and compressed into 300 megabytes of data, across a T3 link (45 megabits per second [Mbps]) in 53 seconds and very soon across an ATM infrastructure (up to 622 Mbps) in 15 seconds. It should be powerful enough to bear real-time desktop videoconferencing traffic. Unfortunately, all this is fiction or plain advertisement. Most existing desktop videoconferencing products do not offer a quality that meets end users' expectations, nor can they be used on a global scale (Intranet/Internet) because they rely on ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network). For the few products that support Internet technology (TCP/IP), the real network Internet is not performing as expected. Adequate quality and service will only come with bandwidth reservation, which will cost additional money at the very least. Unfortunately, this means there is still a long way to go.