Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Next Killer App

I've been working out of a home office for a few years now and while I far prefer it to the many hours of commuting that I used to do, there are some things that I miss.

The biggest is simply the face-to-face "hallway meetings" that pop up all the time at the office. The kind that happen when someone pops their head into someone's office and says "Got a minute?"

Those little slices of life are what keeps businesses moving along. They're important but unfortunately, they aren't easy to replicate in a virtual office.

Sure, those of us that work this way all the time are able to compensate. We can get a lot out of a phone call, or an email message. Sometimes we use audio or video conferencing to try to simulate the "you're here with us" sensation, but in truth, it's not the same.

That doesn't mean that teleworking isn't important, or useful. I'm not even saying that there are things that can't be done remotely. What I'm saying is, wouldn't it be great if we could recreate those little opportunities to mingle and be creative in short bursts?

So I was intrigued by the latest post from Robert Cringely, called The Next Killer App. He says it's going to be telepresence.

Here's what Wikipedia says about telepresence and video conferencing:
Rather than traveling great distances, in order to have a face-face meeting, it is now possible to teleconference instead, using a multiway video phone. Each member of the meeting, or each party, can see every other member on a screen or screens, and can talk to them as if they were in the same room. This brings enormous time and cost benefits, as well as a reduced impact on the environment from air travel. A good telepresence strategy puts the human factors first, focusing on visual collaboration solutions that closely replicate the brain's innate preferences for interpersonal communications, separating from the unnatural "talking heads" experience of traditional videoconferencing. These cues include life–size participants, fluid motion, accurate flesh tones and the appearance of true eye contact. This is already a well-established technology, used by many businesses today. The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, John Chambers in June 2006 at the Networkers Conference compared telepresence to teleporting from Star Trek, and said that he saw the technology as a potential billion dollar market for Cisco.

Cringely makes a compelling case for why these systems could soon move into the home market. And what an intriguing possibility that is.

What's more, he makes a good argument for why Apply might be the first PC maker to turn that dream into a reality.
...Imagine one of the new aluminum and glass iMacs only instead of a 24-inch screen make it 42 inches. The familiar iSight camera will be there in the bezel. but this time the camera will have HD resolution. This hang-it-on-the-wall iMac would establish yet another category of computers, which is what Apple loves to do. They’ll sell a million units to the faithful and all it will take is putting an active telepresence system in every Apple store connected to every other Apple store for prospective users to play with. This gets Apple into the big screen TV business with a system that has higher margins simply because it isn’t just a TV but is also a Mac. Look for all this after Christmas along with refreshed Macs featuring the H.264 encoder chip I pre-announced a number of months ago. Look for Apple to also facilitate telepresence by turning it into a service as it has more and more wanted to do. Then imagine that system connected to a 3G iPhone.

I like his thinking. And I'm looking forward to the next phase of this particular story.

(Via I, Cringely . The Pulpit.)

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