Google wants to turn Chrome into a videoconferencing tool
For years, enterprises have been buying expensive and complicated video conferencing systems to conduct business meetings with people around the globe. In the future, though, like so many other enterprise tools, those purpose-built systems could be replaced by simpler, web-based consumer-caliber tools that work using only a simple browser.
The most appealing part: users of any WebRTC-enabled browser could communicate with one another, regardless of the specific browser they're using. Participants would not need to be on the same platform, which is necessary today with competing products such as Microsoft's Skype, or Apple's FaceTime.
Just the thought of that has garnered at least some early interest of two IT leaders who spoke with CITEworld.
"For Brown University, I would say yes, we'd try it," said Michael Pickett, the CIO of the school. "We are adventurous," plus the university is already an early user of Google Apps for Education, giving it good experience with lots of other products from the company.
"We're always interested in new things that are coming out with the Google Apps suite," said Pickett. "So the question of how much further is it to involve a phone call or video chat inside a browser and have a way of figuring out how to connect to the other person is something we'd explore. I think that's not going to be a step that's too hard to have happen in the next five years."
Brown is often on the leading edge of technology, he said, having adopted cloud computing and a cloud-based ERP system in the last few years. Today the school is moving to a cloud-based learning management system for professors to get course materials out to students, including audio, video, links and more. Brown's IT staff supports about 8,000 students and about 8,000 professors and academic staff members.
The big deciding factor will come, he said, when businesses look at whether using WebRTC browser services can save businesses money while providing good web conferencing for their users. "If it will be more difficult for staff and students here at Brown, it would be hard to move to something like this."
One thing he likes about the WebRTC work so far is that it comes in the form of a tool kit, which lets developers take it and expand its capabilities for users, said Pickett.
"I'm always enthused about the potential of new technologies but after going through many, many cycles, I say let's see how it goes," he said. "It sounds like it could be really good."
Thomas Johnson, vice president and managing director of Aqueity, a technology consulting company, was a little more skeptical. He said WebRTC may not be needed because of Skype and other consumer web video conferencing applications.
"So far, it's just a set of protocols and a framework," said Johnson. "Applications still need to be developed. I don't think anyone cares about a framework" at this point. And consumers won't care about what's under the hood, they'll just want something that works when they click it, he said.
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Do you know what information your employees are creating, and where they're storing it? Could you retrieve it if required by law? Are they destroying information that's supposed to be kept, or keeping information that's supposed to expire after a certain date? Data governance is going to become a big deal in the coming years, warns CITE Conference speaker Deborah Juhnke.
Devices from BlackBerry and Samsung Electronics were earlier also cleared by the department.