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Case Study: IBM Takes Webcasting to the Desktop

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Someday soon, webcasting will be as common a form of office communications as email or the telephone, says Greg Pulier, CEO of Interactive Video Technologies ( IVT). And he's hoping IVT Studio, his company's new product, will jumpstart the trend and set the pace. He sees IVT Studio as an egalitarian tool that will bring on-demand webcasting to the masses or, as the 1960s hippies used to say, "give the power to the people, man."

"There's a very interesting change going on in the corporate world," says Pulier. "In the past, the creation of video-based presentations (for the purposes of webcasting-type business uses) has been the realm of media departments or crews of production teams. Anyone who wanted a video presentation had to schedule some time to get into the studio; they'd have to take on a big project or outsource it," says Pulier. "Now, our product is changing that. It is putting that power into the hands of everybody. Literally anyone who can use PowerPoint can now create a very professional video-based presentation that is put up in all the right formats, all the right bandwidth parameters. It's put up in a way that is hosted properly. And that person is able to check their statistics—who came, who registered, how they answered the polls and questions. All those things that are normally handled by webcasting experts and production people, we are putting into the hands of everybody. So it is becoming an enterprise application that is changing the culture of how people communicate."

Of course, Pulier is understandably a bit prejudiced toward his product, but Pulier's assertion that there is a trend afoot seems inarguable. Among those also noticing a trend emerging is Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner, at Wainhouse Research. Weinstein says that the trend he sees is "not a trend away from studios so much as it as a trend to add the desktop."

"There is a place for polished information," he says. "There's a place for studio content. There's a reason why television studios have fancy lighting and great cameras, great mikes. Presentation is important there. However, there's also a big value to immediacy, and solutions like IVT’s help with immediacy because they allow you to capture the content where the content is, whereas the studios force you to go to the capture system."

Weinstein offers as an example a CEO who has an important message he wants to get out to his team. "You could book time in studio, do all the camera work, make-up, titles, editing, and so forth. And that takes days. Or you could sit at your desk with your computer, click this little app, click on the ‘Record Now’ button, talk for five minutes, click on the ‘Push It Out to My Gang’ button, and bang—you're out. Ten minutes after you recorded it, it's out there. That's the trend. There is a place for sacrificing polish in favor of immediacy."

And IVT Studio isn't the only product demonstrating this new trend. "There are a lot of products that are similar to IVT Studio that allow you to do content creation from your desk," says Weinstein. "But the question is how many different features and functions do you have, and how easy is it to do, and how easy is it to publish content. The IVT premise is that the marketplace is stepping away from studios and stepping to people, stepping more to desktops. We're becoming more opportunistic with capture. And that is the important thing about IVT. They focus on capturing from the desk. There are others in this market, but this is their forte."

IBM Kicks Webcasting Up a Notch
While Weinstein has been analyzing the potential trend and Pulier has been trying to spearhead it, Joe Kahan—Executive Program Manager, IBM Webcasting & IBMTV Technologies—has been testing its viability: Is there really a trend here and where might it lead his company? Kahan is program manager of emerging technologies in the CIO's office at IBM. About a year ago, he launched a pilot project to study how IVT Studio might impact IBM internal communications.

Webcasting is not something new at IBM, Kahan points out; the company has been doing it for a decade. They even brought down their satellite TV system a few years ago, says Kahan, as webcasting took off and it became clear that streaming video could be delivered with the necessary quality and reliability. And so Kahan was looking for something new, something that would take IBM's webcasting/video streaming communications "up a notch." And so Kahan and IBM agreed to help IVT with a pilot program to test and tweak their new Studio tool.

"After observation over the last 10 years, we noticed that the problem we were having promoting webcasting internally had to do with how much material our production teams could create," says Kahan. "Also, it had a lot to do with whether our infrastructure could support this format versus that format, if the desktop could provide certain players, and so forth. The executives wanted to use webcasting, but we had to pull in production teams in order to make that happen.

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