Welcome to my site about Desktop Videoconferencing, and the phone of the future. In the future our phone will be some combination of a computer and the Internet for improved personal and business“picturephone calls”. The phone companies aren’t offering us picturephones yet (even though all the equipment providers are trying to get them to) , so for individuals who want that capability Desktop Videoconferencing is today’s version of that phone.

Videoconferencing products are available at prices ranging from free to $150,000. Conference room products are understandably at the higher end since they are meant for corporate use, and companies that produce those products recognize the market in the desktop segment, where everyone with a computer is a potential customer, and Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Polycom, Adobe etc. all offer a desktop videoconferencing product. Their business model seems to have settled on yearly licencing plans which range from $400 to $700 per user; this expense would be in addition to whatever camera, microphone, server and installation expense is required. I think this is a price customers will embrace only when their company is paying for it.

But products exist all the way down to free. So the challenge is, are there products that have the necessary engineering and features to provide quality desktop videoconferencing and are affordable; so we can use them like we use our phone?

What are your choices?

Skype, Google Talk, AIM etc. are all commendable, especially at that price but their look and feel are meant to appeal to the public IM crowd, not the ideal venue for a grownup conversation. Luckily, every part of the videoconferencing system you need is available on the Web, often nominally priced, sometimes free. Videoconferencing programs and the necessary peripherals are nearly too numerous to count.

This is where my “You can do it” note in my introduction comes in. You, or someone willing to take the time to understand what a quality videoconferencing system needs to include, can surf the Web, find the parts, try them out, price them out, and put together a quality videoconferencing system that’s affordable.

So, I offer the following characteristics of a quality videoconferencing system so you can put together such a system yourself or have such a system put together for you.

What to look for in a quality videoconferencing system?

     After a broadband connection and a current computer, this is what it takes:

Want some help?

Getting your arms around the parts of a quality videoconferencing system may be easy for many of you, should be fun too, but if you would like help further exploring the requirements of a quality system for your personal, business or group use, or if you just have questions, please get in touch.

If you would like me to set you up with the components I particularly like, or that I feel would match your needs, I can do that. Video conversations can be one way, more of a presentation than a conversation; but for normal two way conversations, I’ve found it’s best to set up users in at least groups of two. Leaving a new user to explain it all to another new user is too much to expect. A system for a pair of users, without TV conversion, but with cameras, microphones, software and installation for 2 can be setup for approximately $500 in one session, $700 in two sessions. More than 4 simultaneous users is likely to require a server with increased upload bandwidth. This may be provided by an appropriate existing server on your network, or an appropriate web server for rent.

A quality desktop videoconferencing system can work in the conference room too. A larger screen may require larger transmitted resolution, which probably would require increased bandwidth, but a quality system can provide that resolution; computer to TV screen converters are available in many formats, and the increased bandwidth would need to be provided for whatever product is receiving the signal.

I’ll go anywhere in Northern California when needed, but delivery of the hardware, and configuration instructions can be conveyed worldwide through snail mail, e-mail and the plain old telephone. There are multiple choices for most of the parts listed above, and since you may have custom requirements, please get in touch and I can refine the cost of a system and explain the options to you.

When it’s all done, you own the system, no licenses to buy and renew, no per minute charges to pay, just enjoy quality, rate free, video calls worldwide

Gary L. Holmes
Santa Rosa, CA

Click here for the new page containing the camera aimed at me while we talk.