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What do customers crave today? Even if they won’t say it, they want simplicity. They want their technology to work, without having to think about it. That’s why Apple and Google are so successful. They offer a clean interface and simple results. No digging required.

And that’s why video conferencing is still not ready for the mass market. It’s not easy. Interoperability is still an issue that vendors may or may not be trying to address. I can’t place a video call the way I can place a phone call or send an e-mail or send an instant message.

Indeed, executives on a video conferencing/telepresence Webinar presented by Tandberg this week on alternative applications for video conferencing said that the technology for interoperability is just not there yet.

When asked: “Can telepresence users talk to Skype users?” the answer was “no.” Many things have to happen before consumer video can talk to enterprise video, they said. And this is a company that says it’s a leader in video conferencing interoperability.

There are plenty of examples like this. These days if you are invited to a video Webinar, the best implementations put your system through a “test” phase to make sure your system has everything it needs to be able to watch the video Webinar. And maybe you will be prompted to download a new version of Windows Media Player or Real. And then you will be taken to a Website that will ask you which version you want and for what operating system. By the time you are finished, you’ve missed 10 or 20 minutes of the Webinar. Or maybe you’ve abandoned it. And this is for a one-way broadcast application—one of the simplest ones you can participate in.

Until the day when it’s easy for any user from any location to be able to connect via video conferencing to any other user, video conferencing will remain a tougher sell for the masses.

As one executive on the Tandberg Webinar points out, Metcalfe’s Law is in full force here — “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system.” In other words, the more people that you can connect to via the network, the more value the network will have. If you have just two guys at two endpoints on the telepresence system, it’s not going to be nearly as valuable as if you could connect to 100 of your top executives or customers or vendors.

But that’s where smart solution providers’ greatest opportunity has always been — in turning complex customer problems into simple-to-use solutions. Do you have any creative ways you are solving customer problems with video conferencing today? I’d love to hear about them. If you do, please leave a comment here.

A successful business owner I know had this fortune cookie fortune hanging up in his office: “It’s a simple task to make things complicated, and it’s a complicated task to make things simple.”

The big opportunity is to make all this simple for the end customer. Video can offer so many business benefits, from cutting travel costs to providing a view of any unmanned facilities. Now the big task is to make it easy.