Video on the Net Comes Into Its Own at Spring VON

The Spring VON show in San Jose, CA marks a ten-year evolution — from bleeding edge to mainstream technology — for VoIP. VON's producer Jeff Pulver believes another “over the net” technology is about to go mainstream — video.

The Spring VON show in San Jose, CA marks a ten-year evolution for VoIP — from bleeding edge to mainstream technology.

But even as VoIP has matured, VON's producer Jeff Pulver looks to his March 14-17 show at the San Jose Convention Center to be the harbinger of the “next big thing” — the convergence of communications technologies.

Looking back, 1996 was a “transformational year for VoIP technology,” said Pulver.

“In 1996 people started thinking of how to use VoIP in the infrastructure of the phone network,” said Pulver. Before that, “It was PC to PC communication.” The idea that people would use their computer to talk to o­ne another was not taken seriously. “It was too geeky to be successful.”

What changed everything, Pulver says, was the VocalTec/Dialogic gateway. That development made it possible to bridge the PSTN with emerging IP telephony.

A chance conversation a year later with an Israeli air force colonel reinforced Pulver's belief that VoIP wasn't pie-in-the-sky. The Israeli military, the colonel told Pulver, had built “an alternative telephone network” using VoIP technology and had been using it for four years. “In his mind the technology was ready for prime time,” Pulver added.

This year promises to be equally transformative, Pulver said. Just as VoIP up-ended the business of long-distance phone calls, the Internet will change the ballgame for video.

“There are so many interesting services that can grow o­n the edge [of the Internet] that weren't practical 10 years ago,” Pulver explained. “Video o­n the Net has the potential to disrupt Hollywood.”

Several technology trends have come together to create a “perfect storm” around Internet TV (ITV), said Eric Elia, VP of content for Internet TV company Brightcove.

“First, lower cost production tools,” Elia said. “It's now possible for lean groups to produce high quality video programming. That creates a lot of diversity.”

“Second, broad penetration of broadband access at home and at work,” he continued. “Third – and perhaps most important, the appetite of consumers for control over their video experience, for example DVRs, services like TiVo, digital music. It's what people have come to expect.”

Jeff Pulver points to himself as an example of this change.

“When I was in Mexico City recently I was able to watch Law and Order o­n my laptop,” he said. “I can watch Showtime and Home Box Office o­n demand. Instead of falling asleep with the TV o­n I was able to fall asleep in front of my laptop.”