The 1980s pop song Video Killed the Radio Star is nostalgic homage to the golden years of radio before music promotion became driven by TV and visual output.
Similarly, the ubiquity of the telephone eventually rendered the telegraph obsolete, while the invention of the camera brought with it the demise of the travelling portrait painter.
Now, a report on the future of telecoms and media from communications minister Lord Carter, recommending that every household in the country gets access to broadband internet fast enough to play video, highlights the fact that traditional terrestrial TV may well be on the wane.
At first glance, it is easy to think that IT will be largely unaffected. Unless you are in the business of selling low-cost webcams or high-resolution screens, you could be forgiven for thinking that video to the home PC will be business as usual.
History suggests otherwise. TVs bought to view the Queen’s coronation in 1953 were showing advertisements just two years later.
Similarly, email and text messaging were first embraced by consumers but soon accepted as business communication.
So it will be with fast broadband and, more specifically, video. As consumers get more comfortable watching, posting and engaging in live video, before long they will begin to expect to be able to use this medium at work too.
Where video can be combined with voice to improve customer experience – providing in-depth technical help, views of products, seating or location views – businesses which offer this level of differentiated customer service will stand out from the crowd.
So, with Lord Carter’s recommendation of high-speed broadband across Britain by 2012 and the popularity of BBC iPlayer and YouTube already proving consumer willingness to embrace video, businesses need to start preparing now to accommodate this new consumer communication medium.
What this means for the channel is that all future sales discussion should in clude, as a key consideration, Lord Carter’s ambitious goal.
Those businesses which don't debate the issue run the risk of selling equipment that becomes obsolete before the customer has even achieved the shortest of ROI cycles. This jeopardises both their businesses and yours.
This is a great opportunity for VARs and systems integrators to demonstrate their worth. It means intelligent consultation and a commitment to working with a customer to help them achieve their long-term business goals.
It means helping customers ensure that their IT investment and upgrade plans today will serve them well in the future. And while some of these choices will depend on the size and nature of a business there are others which are universal good practice.
As phone systems are upgraded or replaced, voice over IP is really the only long-term viable option. A phased approach from traditional PBX to VoIP is still entirely possible but resellers and systems integrators should pick their technology vendors carefully.
Without VoIP, any attempt to integrate video into the customer service experience is likely to result in a disjointed experience where communication by different methods cannot be grouped, linked, or tracked with the necessary speed and ease.
The result is a messy experience, an unfulfilled query and maybe even lost customers.
A unified voice and data network is only as good as the applications that sit on it so open standards are key. For resellers, open standards will also increase the options for future sales and business growth.
As video becomes standard companies of all sizes will need good, reliable broadband access and flexible storage that can expand to accommodate video calls and tutorials and the compliance legislations that will inevitably accompany them.
Consumers once asked: ‘Why write if you can phone?’, and by the 1990s they were asking: ‘Why phone if you can email?’. We will soon say: ‘Why email if you can talk face-to-face from the comfort of your own phone?’
Companies that can’t give a positive answer could, unfortunately, be the first radio stars of the unified communications era, while their better-prepared rivals will be the new video kids to watch.
Buddie Ceronie is vice president and managing director for the UK, Ireland and Southern Africa at Avaya
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