The product, also named “Highfive,” is a US$799 device that connects to a TV and the Internet and can create video conferences in HD with high-fidelity sound.
What separates Highfive from other videoconferencing products in its price range is the seamless way it integrates mobile devices with its conferences.
“What they’ve done really well is allow companies to deploy videoconferencing from any device and in any conference room right out of the box to the cloud,” Phil Karcher, a senior analyst with Forrester Research, told the E-Commerce Times.
“There are products out there which make it easy to do videoconferencing from desktop and mobile devices, but they don’t make it easy with all three form factors — browser, mobile and conference room,” he added.
With Highfive, you can be video chatting with a colleague on your phone as you enter your building. As you walk into a Highfive-equipped conference room, you can switch the session to the big screen in the room. When the switch is made, your colleague can see and speak to everyone in the room.
Others can be invited to your conference by sending them a simple URL. They don’t even have to have a Highfive app running on their hardware.
“That ease of switching is unique. Others have introduced switching, but not as easily as Highfive does it out of the box without additional infrastructure,” Karcher said.
“That’s a big wow factor for people not used to using videoconferencing,” he added.
Although priced within the means of small businesses, Highfive also makes a play for larger companies. For example, it allows multiple Highfive systems to be managed over sophisticated networks through a Web-based administrative console.
Beyond the Speakerphone
“Highfive is the first video device and cloud service that lets companies of all sizes put video everywhere,” said Dave King, Highfive vice president of marketing.
“With Highfive, companies can put high-quality video in every conference room, team room and huddle room company-wide, and employees can take calls on their computers or phones from anywhere,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“We believe Highfive is the first major technology innovation for the conference room since the speakerphone,” he added.
Though it was a marvel in its time, the telephone conference call soon may take its place alongside dial-up Internet access and floppy disks.
With products like Highfive, the videoconferencing market has an opportunity to expand its reach to small businesses.
“The SMB segment has been underserved by traditional videoconferencing solutions that rely on proprietary hardware and are restricted by the MCU-based architecture that require QoS-enabled networks,” said Joan Vandermate, marketing vice president for Vidyo.
“These legacy solutions are typically too costly for SMB budgets and are challenging to deploy and maintain,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
Price and complexity have been barriers to the downmarket spread of videoconferencing, acknowledged Chris Wiborg, director of collaboration portfolio marketing at Cisco.
Known for its high-end corporate videoconferencing systems, Cisco also sees an opportunity in the SMB market.
“Our focus now is how to take the value in our high-end systems — that no-compromise experience — and bring it downmarket, and do so really aggressively,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
What draws a business to videoconferencing varies by size. Large corporations use it to maintain connections with their far-flung branches; smaller companies use it to maintain relationships with customers and suppliers.
“Big companies like videoconferencing because it helps them feel like a small company again,” Wiborg said, “and small companies like it because it makes them feel bigger than they are.”
The arrival of true out-of-the-box videoconferencing signals a trend that’s insinuated itself into other areas of business.
“Consumerization of IT [and] inexpensive pay-as-you-go cloud services have leveled the playing field for SMBs looking to use enterprise-class capabilities like videoconferencing,” Chris Chute, a research director at IDC, told the E-Commerce Times.
“The market for online meeting and collaboration, which many times includes video, has grown over the years — yet robust videoconferencing solutions have remained out of reach for smaller companies,” he observed.
“This is a perfect time for vendors like Highfive,” said Chute, “since the Internet has become a very efficient platform for marketing and selling niche solutions that address specific pain points.”