And Now for Something New – A UC Application Contest
NEC recently introduced their new UT880 smart desk phone. It is a desk phone with a built-in camera for video conferencing. However, it has an additional twist in that it actually is also a tablet, running the Android operating system.
On initial view, the addition of a video camera to a desktop type phone has always seemed to me to be one of those ideas that sounds good in a brainstorming session, but falls short in execution. First, the camera is at a relatively low position, and generally looking up at the person on the camera, resulting in a “hulking” image. Second, the screen is both small and oriented the wrong way for most video conferencing that is generally widescreen for a room system compliance. A small screen is generally poor for video conferencing (read the white paper here on the relationship of screen size to video quality). This is why I believe the adoption of these types of devices has been fairly limited. It makes a lot more sense to add a camera to a desktop PC and use the larger screen and better camera positioning.
However, I think NEC may be on to something with the UT880. They have added the Android capability so the screen is essentially a tablet, and apps can be developed for the device. I assume that these can also integrate to the communications capability, enabling an app to be created that is very specific to a function, but also integrates to the back end UC system. An example was for a patient to take a UT880 home after surgery to use to talk to the health care follow-up team.
Clearly, NEC sees that applications integrated into their solution can create an interesting capability set. I recently wrote about Damaka and their CEBP integration capability in mobile clients; what NEC has implemented is very similar for a fixed desktop device with a combination of voice video and application capabilities. In both the Damaka and NEC implementations, the CEBP integration is done in the endpoint, not between servers. For NEC, it opens the door to having the potential of adjacency market growth from the communications system to the applications and their use. By choosing Android as the device OS, NEC is tapping into a rich developer community as well as enabling the applications to have a great user experience and using the readily available tools to integrate with back end servers and cloud applications.
In a strategy to encourage innovation in using this capability, NEC is running a UT880 App Challenge contest specifically for telecommunications consultants for suggestions on how to use this capability. Consultants can suggest an idea at NEC's UT880 App Challenge. NEC indicates they will select 10 winners and then implement them to demo at a future event.
I look forward to seeing what people come up with. Fixed desktop devices can fit into a range of scenarios, and having this capability may eliminate the need for another device or enable new uses and models. Perhaps there is even value in video, especially if it is defined through an app instead of being positioned as a generic video conferencing capability. Anyway, it is interesting to see a UC company with a traditional telephony heritage thinking outside the box.