According to Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype, over 35% of all Skype calls are video calls.
I’m sure most of those video calls are personal calls between family and friends.
But I also hear reports regularly of small businesses using Skype. As one owner of a small marketing firm told me recently, “We hold our team meeting once a week on Mondays between our East Coast office and the team in San Francisco, using Skype and Web cams. We can’t get together physically, but seeing facial expressions gives us better working relationships. That extra bit of personal connection matters.”
Because of the small-business interest in Skype, I made it a point to check out two Skype video call solutions at the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. I wanted to see if either would be worthwhile for small businesses.
The AiGuru Skype videophone from Asus is a standalone videophone for making Skype calls. It has a video camera, a touchscreen, a speaker and microphone. You can touch screen icons or use a few handy buttons to initiate a Skype call or hang up. There are no cables (it works off of WiFi) and no cords to plug in (it’s battery operated). It’s easily portable. If you want to make a call you just turn it on – it’s ready to go. It is pricey, retailing for over $250.
But how useful might it be for small businesses? Well, this videophone probably makes sense for businesses only if you make regular and frequent Skype calls to another individual. If you just make the occasional video call with Skype, then it would be cheaper and easier to attach a $35 webcam to your existing computer. Also, if you need to share your computer screen with the person you are calling, you’ll want to be on a computer where you can use screen-sharing, not a videophone.
Skype Video Conferencing Through TVs
Skype video conferencing will soon be available on TVs. You will be able to get a group of people together in front of a TV in one location. They will be able to see and communicate with a group in another location in front of a second TV.
Skype just this week announced this new feature with some fanfare, and two TV manufacturers were displaying it in their booths (see the image accompanying this post). Skype is targeting mainly families with this offering. According to the Skype website, Skype on TV will be available in “a few months’ time.”
Again, the big question: is this something that small businesses can use? On the one hand, it sounds appealing to use a large-screen TV for video conferencing of teams or groups. The larger the screen, the easier to see a group. But the downside is that you have to buy a special Internet-connected HDTV (either a Panasonic or an LG) for the TV-conferencing. You can’t just add the feature to your existing television. If you are going to have to invest in equipment, there are other video conferencing solutions for businesses already on the market. Or simply buy extra-large monitors for your computers, and wide-angle webcams, and use Skype that way.