Creative's 3rd Wave: InPerson ~ Creative Labs Zen MP3 Players Sound Blaster Card
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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Creative's 3rd Wave: InPerson

Sound engineering feats must be backed by marketing schmooze, and that's how the wireless video phone, inPerson , should be sold

SINGAPORE'S favourite IT son Sim Wong Hoo wants to build another giant market with his latest invention, a video conferencing device called inPerson.

Not content with dominating the sound card scene, with the famed Sound Blaster product he created in the 1990s, and kickstarting the MP3 market at the turn of the century with Zen MP3 players, he wants to try a third wheel of prosperity. This time, in the real-time communications space.

inPerson was unveiled in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. A video phone, it allows you to make cheap video calls over the Internet. It doesn't need 'to be paired to' be used: if you've just one device, the other person can connect to you with a webcam and a camputer.

Wong Hoo, the head honcho af Creative Technology, hopes that his 1kg baby, priced at S$1,200 - a sliver of the price of boardroom video conferencing systems that cast US$50,OOO (S$70,000) and upwards will take off.

The proliferation of broadband and increasing bandwidth makes his proposition attractive especially to his target customers - small- and medium-sized firms which are looking to' squeeze expenses to' max bottom line.

Given that global reach is a necessity, travel has became an essential building black to' firming ties with business partners, making deals and inking new contracts. But pricey airfare due to rising fuel casts are putting a dampener on frequent travel.

While real-time cammunicatian using video conferencing is no replacement for the face-to-face touch, it will hold down some business casts. Instead af travelling every week in a month, company executive~ could make do with video conference meetings, travelling only monthly.

Certainly, this is the scenario that Wong Hoo hopes will pan out on a mass scale. Because it hasn't so far.

Video conferencing technology has stalled mare than a handful of times in the last 40 years. Companies like AT&T and IBM have made unsuccessful attempts with their video phone systems. Recall, if you will, IBM's PicTel which cast US$20,OOO.

And, if you've been to video conferencing meetings, you would know that voice and lip movements are often out of whack. Indeed, jerky footage is the least of your troubles: A nightmare happens when the image disappears. I've been in video conferences where technicians, after setting up the system, had to stand by - just in case the signals drop.

Recent video conferencing systems from Hewlett-Packard and Cisco called Halo and Telepresence, respectively, have put paid to these problems.

Their images come in high-definition and, of course, with great clarity. The people you are talking to in another part of the world appear on screen as though they are just sitting across the table from you.

But, again, these systems are costly. SMEs just don't have the money to invest in such systems even though they need real-time communications too. Wong Hoo's bright idea might just be the bright spark for them.

inPerson is easy to install and use. Media demonstrations show that you can hook up to the Internet wirelessly or via the office network and click on a button to get connected. The experience is smooth with no jitters and no lag between voice and mouth movements.

In the coming months when the device is rolled out commercially to more countries in the world - it already sells in the United States and Singapore - we will know if markets buy into the device's promises.

But in the days of global branding and marketing schmooze, Wong Hoo has to do more than deliver on engineering feats: he has to drum up mega-bucks advertising charm too. So that the inPerson woos corporate hearts and that's when half the battle is won.

via Digital Life

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