FORTUNE -- Videoconferencing has become (almost) mainstream, but there are still plenty of challenges getting different technologies like Cisco's (CSCO) TelePresence and Skype to work together. In industry-speak, that's called interoperability -- or lack thereof.
Enter Blue Jeans Network, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup that says it's found a solution to the problem. The company makes money by selling a cloud-based service that enables everyday Skype or Google Chat users to videoconference with users of much pricier room-based systems -- sort of like an audio bridge for video calls. Up until recently, Blue Jeans wasn't competing with the makers of videoconferencing solutions, like Cisco and Polycom (PLCM). It was just providing a web-based tool for customers of the various video vendors to conference with each other, even if they weren't using the same equipment. But now the small company is trying to position its product as an alternative to at least one slice of the underlying video infrastructure pie, multipoint control units (MCUs), or devices that enable videoconferences between three or more users.
Traditional MCUs connect between large videoconferencing systems, and don't work with desktop or mobile solutions like Skype. Blue Jeans started out allowing different flavors of videoconferencing technology to work together, but says it realized along the way that its service can also replace MCUs. To that end, on Wednesday Blue Jeans said it plans to market its cloud-based service as an MCU replacement by licensing virtual ports for $300 a pop (each endpoint, like a Skype user on a laptop or employees in a Cisco TelePresence room, will require its own port).
At least on the surface, the new pricing structure seems more marketing ploy than actual innovation -- the underlying product is still the same, just packaged differently. But according to Blue Jeans, IT professionals aren't used to buying videoconferencing capabilities by the minute, which is one way the company has sold its service up until now.
"At the end of the day we think what we're doing makes the videoconferencing market bigger," says Stu Aaron, chief commercial officer at Blue Jeans. "Everybody's benefiting from a bigger pie, but there will be winners and losers. And yes, there is some admitted overlap with a piece of their portfolio."
Cisco -- one of the largest players in videoconferencing infrastructure, including MCUs -- says it's working on "industry standardization efforts and the next generation of interoperability protocols." More
Image: Gary King
Buyers of Cisco Systems' (CSCO) high-end videoconferencing solution, TelePresence, tend to be deep-pocketed enterprises like SAP (SAP AG) and Bank of America (BANK). Why? It costs about $300,000 to set up the screens, cameras, infrastructure, lights and furniture necessary to TelePresence-enable just one room.
So it's no surprise that smaller players--like newcomer Vidyo--are trying to undercut Cisco. Last week the New Jersey-based startup introduced a lower-cost telepresence solution for the MOREMichal Lev-Ram, writer - Jun 14, 2011 11:28 AM ET
As John Chambers rebuilds Cisco, enterprise video conferencing is probably one business he won't have to muck with. Now, about Umi...
FORTUNE -- Over the past few years, networking giant Cisco Systems (CSCO) has aggressively entered markets as diverse as camcorders, set-top boxes and videoconferencing tools. The result? A company that many say has lost its focus. That's partly why, earlier this week, CEO John Chambers sent out a company-wide memo MOREMichal Lev-Ram, writer - Apr 7, 2011 3:31 PM ET
Mobile ads are going to be a big business.
Yesterday, ooVoo CEO Philippe Schwartz came into the Fortune offices to demonstrate his company's excellent new mobile video conferencing software (more on that next week) on Android and soon on iOS.
On the desktop, ooVoo has two revenue models. One is a subscription service, mostly sold to businesses who want to do multiple-window video conferencing without advertising. On the consumer side, they run Google MORESeth Weintraub - Dec 9, 2010 2:19 PM ET
At $599, plus $25 a month for service, Cisco's (CSCO) new consumer videoconferencing product might seem pricey for the average household. But corporations could use these home systems to allow global employees to connect with headquarters during business hours. Srinath Narasimhan, CEO of Tata Communications (TCL), says remote employees are loath to go to the office for a 3 a.m. call in a video "suite." With a home setup, workers MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Nov 3, 2010 3:00 AM ET
The company says its new video chatting device is just what people want. But a look at the competition -- and $600 price point -- doesn't seem to bode well for its chances.
There had better be an elite group of videochatters out there with cash to burn. Otherwise, Cisco Systems will be in trouble with its video-calling system, Umi. Cisco (CSCO) says it has done the market research to back MOREShelley DuBois, writer-reporter - Oct 8, 2010 12:13 PM ET
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