With the ubiquity of good quality web cams and camera-equipped mobile devices, it should be as easy to setup a group video conference (regardless of platform) as a phone conference. With the ubiquity of good quality web cams and camera-equipped mobile devices, it should be as easy to setup a group video conference (regardless of platform) as a phone conference. Blue Jeans is blazing this trail.
Cloud-based Video Conferencing Service
Stu Aaron | Blue Jeans
Where does the name Blue Jeans come from?
It comes from our mission to make video conferencing comfortable, casual, flexible, and easy… just like your favorite pair of jeans. We liked the fact that Blue Jeans are versatile, hard-working, functional, and commonplace — something you can't imagine living without. It’s the same experience we create for your meetings. We like to say that Blue Jeans is the fabric that ties together all your video conferencing needs. Also, in a space crowded with people who have tried to creatively work "vid" into their name, we love having a name that is unique and memorable.
What prompted the company founders to found Blue Jeans?
Our founders are a couple of serial entrepreneurs with a passion for solving big problems. They did not come from the video conferencing industry, but saw a problem and an opportunity they wanted to solve. Video conferencing adoption has traditionally been plagued by complex, incompatible, and expensive solutions, while the alternative, audio conferencing, is typically easy, open, and affordable. As a result the vast majority of multi-site business meetings today use audio conferencing instead of video. According to Wainhouse Research, in 2010 alone there were only 200 million minutes of video conferencing consumed worldwide, while there were 80 billion minutes of audio conferencing. Blue Jeans Network is aiming to expand the video conferencing market for all players, by tapping into the 80 billion minute audio conferencing market. Our belief is that if we can make video as easy, open, and affordable as audio then it becomes a no brainer for audio meetings to convert to video, making video conferencing as common as, well, blue jeans.
What has the company learned in the past year?
That we’ve tapped into something significant. We realized that there was an appetite for a truly interoperable video conferencing service, but we were pleasantly surprised by just how much demand there was. Our service has gone global essentially overnight. In our first year of operation we’ve connected over a quarter of a million participants in over 3,000 cities in over 200 countries around the world into hundreds of thousands of business meetings. We’ve created a network effect that is allowing our customers to get more value out of their existing video conferencing system investments. By allowing them to connect their video conferencing rooms to people who can’t be in them we allow them to connect with more people. The more people they can connect with, the more they use the equipment. The more they can use the equipment, the better their ROI. We’ve also learned how incredibly viral the service is. It starts with one user but spreads quickly as people realize how easy and effective it is. This is especially true for those remote meeting participants who are used to being second class citizens in their meetings on the dark end of a phone line. With Blue Jeans, they can suddenly see and be seen in their meetings.
What kinds of businesses are adopting Blue Jeans?
We’ve had success with customers of all sizes, shapes, geographies and verticals. Because Blue Jeans is a horizontal application, we are a good fit for any business that conducts general purpose, multiparty, multi-site business meetings. We’ve seen particular success in environments with lots of B2B or B2C meetings. This is true because within your enterprise you can often control the endpoints you are likely to run into, but as soon as you start trying to communicate with your partners, suppliers, customers, or the general public, you have no way of knowing or controlling what endpoints you are likely to encounter. We alleviate all those concerns for our customers.
Any interesting anecdotes from end users?
We’ve had some really interesting use cases. Of course we’ve had the traditional video conferencing applications like multisite meetings, distance learning, and telemedicine. But we’ve also seen, brand-new use cases emerge. We’ve seen everything from casting calls, to fashion shows, to cooking classes, to field service and emergency response. When you combine our ease, interoperability, and affordability, with the propagation of video-enabled devices, the opportunities to improve interaction through video are almost endless. I think we haven’t even yet begun to see the full range of video applications that a service like Blue Jeans makes possible.
Supporting 3rd party clients like Skype, and other video conferencing systems seems like a good strategy. Any plans to support other clients, especially Facetime?
We continually add new clients to the mix based on market demand. In addition to Skype we currently support H.323, SIP and telepresence-based room systems, Google, Microsoft Lync, and Cisco Jabber. Just last month we added a browser access option that even makes it easy for people that have no other client. We would like to work with Apple to add Facetime support in the future, but we haven’t seen a lot of demand from business users yet for Facetime. It seems to be more of a consumer tool.
If attendees can use a Skype client (for example), is there benefit to using something other than Skype premium, which supports 10 clients?
Absolutely, Skype is a great tool as long as you know everyone else will be on Skype and you are buddies with them all in advance. But that’s not how the real world works. In the real world you need flexibility. As a meeting owner, you don’t know in advance where your meeting participants are going to be or how they plan to connect to your meeting. Nor should you have to. That’s too much of a burden. This is particularly true when you are conducting meetings with participants outside your company. With Blue Jeans all you need to care about is who you want to attend the meeting and when the meeting takes place. Any user in that meeting can use Skype, but every user in that meeting is not forced to. And no one needs to sort out Skype names and buddy requests ahead of time. Additionally, for many business users, the concept of having to buddy with another party in order to have a meeting is undesirable. Take for instance a recruiter and a candidate. No recruiter wants to buddy with someone they might not hire and might continually Skype them to "check in." A "meet me" service like Blue Jeans, where everyone dials in to a temporary meeting ID is a much better option.
How many simultaneous clients can the service a support on a single call?
Today, a single Blue Jeans call can support up to 25 simultaneous endpoints. This can be any combination of video conference rooms, desktop or mobile video users, and even audio-only phone callers. We have meetings of all sizes and shapes, but a typical call, if there is such a thing, will have 4-6 endpoints. One or two will be in conference rooms. Two to four will be on desktop or mobile devices, and then there is always someone on the phone because they are driving or still in their pajamas.
What are the most important points to consider when implementing cloud-based video conferencing?
Video conferencing services used to need to connect tens of conference rooms together at a given time, but now with the propagation of desktop and mobile video they need to connect tens of thousands of endpoints together at any moment. And it has to be easy, and scalable and economical. To do this well requires an architecture designed from the ground up for this new world paradigm. That’s what we’ve done. Rather than cobbling together a network of legacy MCU bridging hardware, we started with a clean slate and architected a holistic solution on a global scale. We've essentially built an interactive video CDN by blending together the lessons learned from other cloud architecture pioneers like Akamai, Google, and Amazon.
Do I need any special equipment at the host site?
No. All anybody needs to participate in a Blue Jeans meeting is a video enabled device, an Internet connection, and someone to meet with. It’s that easy. You get an invitation, you click on a link or dial a number, and you join the meeting.
What are the entry costs to get into BJ compared to traditional solutions?
With no expensive capital expenditure required, entry costs are minimal. Blue Jeans offers a number of different usage plans, and pricing depends on plan and volume. Entry-level pricing starts at as little as $199 per month.
What do you predict will happen in the next 3-5 years in video conferencing?
I hate to date myself, but I entered the workforce before the Web was the standard business tool it has become today. Back then we had libraries at work to get access to the reports and facts and figures we needed. Our phones and computers had wires that tethered us to our desks, and if we wanted to see a colleague, partner or customer, we flew, drove, or walked there. I distinctly remember when the Web started to take off in business. It was 1994 and this company called Netscape was generating a lot of buzz with its browser. I remember the discussions back then...Is the Web good for business? Do we need it? Will it kill productivity? What about bandwidth? What about security? Some companies embraced the shift and benefited from it dramatically. Others resisted but eventually had to embrace and catch up when their employees demanded it. In the end no one could stop the movement to the Web for business. It was inevitable because the benefits so significantly outweighed the downsides. Businesses found a way to adopt and everyone is better off today for it. This should sound familiar because the same discussions are happening today around video. Some companies are embracing and benefitting tremendously with cost savings and productivity improvements. Other enterprises are frantically blocking Skype, keeping their video conferencing systems from dialing out, and resisting the adoption of iPads. But if history tells us anything it’s that you can’t stop this movement. Projections for video conferencing growth over the next few years are quite bullish, but I think they don’t fully capture the opportunity. Back in the 90's no one dreamed just how prolific the Web would be twenty years later. It’s the same today with video collaboration. We’re just scratching the surface on use cases. This goes well beyond distance learning and telemedicine. Video will change business the same way the Web did. We can't stop it; all we can do is embrace it.
Stu provides Blue Jeans Network with more than 20 years proven experience in technology marketing, product management, and business development, having played principal roles in multiple highly successful startup ventures across multiple industries. Stu was most recently the Vice President of Marketing and Product Management at Bloom Energy a recognized leader in clean tech. In his five years at Bloom, Stu was responsible for all facets of marketing, product management, business development, and government affairs as the company experienced rapid growth and built a strong brand. Stu was the architect behind Bloom's blockbuster launch on "60 Minutes" in February 2010.
Prior to Bloom, Stu held the roles of Vice President of Marketing, Product Management, and Business Development at Topspin Communications, which was acquired by Cisco Systems in May 2005. Before Topspin, Stu spent three years at CacheFlow Inc., where he held the positions of Vice President of Marketing and Product Management and led the company through a highly successful IPO. Prior to CacheFlow, Stu was the Assistant Vice President of Marketing in the IP and Internetworking Product Group at Newbridge Networks Inc., and an Industry Analyst with the Network Strategies Practice of Ernst & Young. Stu has also held a variety of research and development positions at 3M Corporation and National Semiconductor Corporation and holds a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University. Stu also has the honor of having introduced Blue Jeans' co-founders to one another in 2008
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