Video conferencing like blue jeans?

As vendors push their video conferencing solutions to businesses looking for more flexibility in the workplace, one California company is trying to make the process as comfortable as your favourite pair of denim.

Blue Jeans Networks, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company founded in late 2009, offers a cloud-based video conferencing service that’s interoperable with most vendors’ offerings, including those from Cisco Systems, Skype, and LifeSize Communications.

“We built the video equivalent of the audio conferencing bridge,” said Stu Aaron, chief commercial officer for Blue Jeans Networks. Users can access a Blue Jeans meeting from anywhere from high-end conference rooms to their mobile devices.

The company is built on the premise that “…if you ask anybody, they will tell you that a video meeting is better than an audio meeting,” Aaron said. “It’s just a much more effective meeting.”

But video conferencing has been a lot like New Year’s resolutions, he said. Everyone talks about them, but few follow through. Complexity, incompatibility and cost have hindered businesses’ adoption of the technology, despite its benefits. The current VC world works as if when making a phone call, the caller could only speak to someone on the same model of phone. “That sounds preposterous, but that’s how video has been,” Aaron said. “It’s put too much pressure on the parties that wanted to have the meeting to know exactly how the other parties were going to connect.”

Interoperability and ease of use are key value propositions for the company.

The service also supports encryption, has a full participant roster and allows the host to close off meetings to unwanted guests at any time. Dialing into the cloud also means added security for users’ networks.

“We have a hybrid channel model where we support different types of channel partners,” Aaron said. AV-VAR partners who resell offerings from vendors such as Cisco or Polycom can use Blue Jeans as a value-added service.

Managed service providers who used to offer bridging as a service but were limited by hardware and interoperability challenges can also partner with the company. It also partners with OEMs such as Germany’s Deutche Telekom, which resells the service in Europe.

The company has a tiered channel program with different revenue sharing models based on the volume, customization and commitment required. For partners, the revenue shared is essentially all margin, since there is no hardware to resell.

Blue Jeans works with partners for joint marketing and offers second and third level support. Canada is currently the company’s second largest market after the U.S. “It’s a diverse population where people like choice,” Aaron said, and the geographic expanse make video conferencing a major draw for companies here. The lack of a dominant endpoint in the market makes Blue Jeans’ interoperability factor a big opportunity.Partners who are reselling endpoints are one target for recruitment. “It’s a very natural extension to those partners.”

“The competition for Blue Jeans is really audio conferencing,” he said. The company partners with major players in the video conferencing space and acts as a complementary solution.

James Alexander, a channel market analyst from Info Tech Research in London, Ont., said partners need to add more tools to their cloud portfolios to add value and make money. “Most partners need to and are beginning to see that the cloud isn’t going to be partner killer, the cloud is going to be a partner enabler,” Alexander said.

“A lot of the tools that are out there don’t integrate very well,” Alexander said.

According to Info-Tech’s research, 32 per cent of mid-sized businesses are looking to implement or are in the planning stages for collaboration tools, while 25 per cent are for unified communications. “There’s a lot of investment going on in those two areas,” Alexander said.

Pricing plans for Canada and the U.S. begin at about $200 per month.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Harmeet Singh
Harmeet Singh
Harmeet reports on channel partner programs, new technologies and products and other issues relevant to Canada's channel community. She also contributes as a video journalist, providing content for the site's original streaming video. Harmeet is a graduate of the Carleton University School of Journalism.

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