I’d talk about this new product even if we didn’t sell it.  Videoconferencing has long been stymied by the fact that it’s actually hard to use.  Some of that has been the state of the technology, and some of that has been the inability of videoconferencing vendors to make their products actually usable.  So it becomes an event–you get up, you go somewhere, you watch someone fiddle with an expensive setup, and then you ‘videoconference’.

There have recently been some products out that attempt to remedy this by making smaller sets that are somewhat more intuitive and somewhat less expensive.  Think Cisco or Polycom.  These represent some good advances to making videoconferences more pervasive and, therefore, more effective.  If the guy (or the gal) you need to communicate with has a higher probability of ready access to a set, you might be more likely to use it.  And if you have something more than just pictures–built-in document sharing or collaboration, say–you might find more use to it.

We think Mitel has come along with the next ratchet up in the progress toward the perfect video set.  Check out their UC/360 product.  It’s nothing more than a really slick phone with electronic pictures of three phantom people around a table.  Touch one of the phantoms with your finger, and you get to a dial directory.  Find the person you want to conference with, and hit the ‘dial’ button.  Videoconference initiated.  Go back to the remaining phantoms if you wish to include one or two more people into the conference.  See them on your monitor.  Trade and share documents and files by displaying them on the monitor, or dragging-and-dropping them from an electronic dropbox.  It’s just added to a regular Mitel phone system, and it’s cheap.  One plane trip avoided and it’s paid for.  Probably the shape of things to come; I’d expect to see more of these.

If you have a Mitel VoIP system now it’s probably something to consider.  If nothing else, putting one of these Star-Trek phones on the CEO’s desk will get you noticed.  If he’s one of those super-ego types, you’ll probably get a bonus out of it.