The Value of Software

The Value of Software
White Paper
September 2012
S. Ann Earon, Ph.D.
President, Telemanagement Resources International Inc.
©2012 ClearOne Inc. All rights reserved. No part of
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White Paper
The Value of Software-Based Video Codec
ClearOne Rev 1.0 - September 2012
Optimal Audio For Conference Rooms
Table of Contents
Meeting Customer Needs
The Software-Based Solution
The Value of Software-Based Codecs versus Hardware-Based Codecs
Technology Perceptions
White Paper
The Value of Software-Based Video Codec
ClearOne Rev 1.0 - September 2012
With the advent of new video conferencing and collaborative
technology products, a discussion has begun to revolve
around the value of a software-based architecture versus a
hardware based system.
For years, many video conferencing vendors convinced
customers that the hardware-based system was the right
tool for conferencing and that software-based systems
had too many limitations.
However, with the:
- proliferation of bandwidth,
- the flexibility of the Internet protocol,
- increased processing capability of
general-purpose processors & standard operating systems,
- the introduction of tablets,
- the capability for general-purpose processors
to handle video related tasks, and
- an awareness of contemporary conferencing requirements, vendors have now changed their tune and introduced an open and flexible
collaboration platform based on software-
based codecs instead of dedicated hardware-
based codecs for video conferencing.
The purpose of this paper is to understand the value of
software-based codecs as part of today’s collaborative
substantially more than a few select conference rooms.
Users state that the value in meetings has as much, or
more, to do with the information handled in the meetings as
it has to do with seeing people. That information might be
in the form of PowerPoint presentations, paper handouts,
information from a tablet, video clips and photos, or notes
on a whiteboard. While vendors have offered peripheral
equipment to meet these applications, users feel these
needs are not peripheral to their business, but an integral
part of their business. As a result, new video conferencing
systems have been developed embracing the sharing of
meeting content as an equal partner with the transmission
of audio and video. But why develop these new systems
on software-based codecs?
The Software-Based Solution
Software-based solutions can be resident on many types
of general-purpose devices including PCs, appliances,
servers and hand-held devices etc. Software-based H.264
video codecs can be used for conference room, desktop
and mobile applications.
Historically, general-purpose devices have been quite lame
with respect to handling motion video. It is only in the last
few years that graphics and CPU processing power has
approached the level of sophistication and power to do
justice to quality TV images, an evolution that has recently
been driven by the emergence of DVD playback on the PC,
Meeting Customer Needs
The strongest message received from long-term video
conferencing users is that the video conferencing ‘talkingheads’ experience is not a sufficiently compelling reason
to justify installation of video conferencing equipment in
video gaming devices, handheld communication devices,
and a variety of social media offerings.
The PC is not new to video conferencing. In 1989, VTEL
offered the first PC-based video conferencing system. In
1993, PictureTel introduced the System 1000, based on
personal computer architecture.
In 1997, VCON
White Paper - The Value of Software-Based Video Codec - 1-800-945-7730 - -
invented the first IP-only desktop videoconferencing
Incompatibility between codecs is not going to fade away
system for videoconferencing over large organizational
as technology evolves.
networks. However, historically video vendors have
more prolific and complex to the point where it comes
been very reserved about exposing the PC inside to the
economically impossible to build chip sets that keep up
video conferencing user, in part out of concern to protect
with software development.
Instead, codecs will become
customers from some of the pitfalls of having a personal
computer in a group environment, and in part because
When a system is designed with all these aspects in
until recently the PC leant itself poorly to the seamless
mind, use of these valuable meeting tools in video calls
integration of motion video and PC-generated content.
is a seamless and natural extension of their everyday use
in a regular meeting room. Apart from the sheer value
In parallel with the general-purpose devices maturing as
of getting more use out of the equipment, this has the
a standards-based motion-video platform, the Web has
added benefit of acclimatizing users to the equipment in
grown to become an indispensable source of information
conditions other than during a video call, since for some
for business.
novice or occasional users a video call may be a ‘special
By merging general-purpose processing
functionality with video conferencing functionality, and
event’ viewed with some trepidation.
opening the general-purpose device to the conferenceroom use, the resources on a company’s local area
network are as accessible in the conference room as when
sitting at one’s desk. The result is a much better integrated
solution than simply attaching a PC as an afterthought to a
The Value of Software-Based
Codecs versus
Hardware-Based Codecs
‘talking heads’ video conferencing system.
Recent advances in computation power and storage have
Web access, access to networked files and databases,
enabled a variety of general-purpose devices to perform
and the use of attached devices, such as whiteboards
video compression and decompression efficiently in
connected with a local or networked printer, provide end
software only formats.
users with value from the collaboration system, even for
single-room, non-video meetings.
It’s economics that led to the development of Telestream’s
vendors and even between
original multi-thousand dollar FlipFactory box.
chipsets from the same
they offer video transcoding workflow solutions as
vendor. This means you
software downloads. And, that is precisely what they are,
don’t get the “plug-and-play” portability as you do with
transcoding solutions, which do not perform as well as
software-based codecs.
using the matching codec employed at the origination site.
White Paper - The Value of Software-Based Video Codec - 1-800-945-7730 - -
Hardware-based codecs don’t allow you to easily fix
Future video/collaboration apps will reside in the “cloud”
interoperability issues and are not as easily programmable
requiring that a user simply connect to it. Software codecs
as software-based codecs. Software-based codecs and
are not only for collaborative efforts, but are used for a
related apps are available everywhere as downloads.
variety of applications when data needs to be compressed
and sent to another site. It isn’t economically feasible to
Software-based media-processing solutions do everything
build codecs for every application. Using software makes
from decoding video to managing a touch-screen interface
changes much easier and faster.
to running Bluetooth, all on a single general-purpose
processor. Software encoding offers extremely high
Due to improved coding
quality when compared to hardware encoding, since
efficiency and functionality,
hardware is usually focused on delivery speed over quality.
a number of applications
As processors continue to evolve, future enhancements
and applications will be mostly software-based.
video conferencing, video
streaming, Internet video
The advent of software-based codecs, compared to
games, and digital TV –
hardware-based codecs, offers value in many ways.
are emerging on general-
Software-based solutions:
purpose devices, as well as hand-held devices. For each
application, efficient software codecs are highly desirable.
- offer higher scalability and capacity at lower cost than hardware based solutions
- enable faster time to market for new, latest or custom features
- allow easy customization for different needs of vertical markets
- offer easy upgradability and seamless feature additions after the initial investment
- offer more flexibility to expand with
business growth
- are more highly secured for IT infrastructure requirements
Technology Perceptions
While video conferencing in room environments will
always have their place for important group meetings, it is
important to realize that many people in the work place do
not always have the time to walk down a hall to a conference
facility. Using a software-based architecture allows the
two dimensions of traditional video conferencing systems
- allow the use of existing equipment and – audio and video – to be added by a third dimension –
infrastructure with easier installation data, as an integral component to make a well-rounded
and maintenance
whole. When you compare three dimensional, integrated
- achieve higher Return On Investment with products to what was known in the past, the old way of
multiplecapabilities and applications in a
communicating seems flat by comparison. People now
single-box solution
want the ability to hold video calls and collaborate wherever
-facilitate easier migration to user-friendly devices(e.g. tablets, phones, MAC, PC, etc.).
they are located, including at the desktop or while away
from the office.
White Paper - The Value of Software-Based Video Codec - 1-800-945-7730 - -
Because there is no common denominator, the demand for
more powerful codecs can only be economically justified
with software-based solutions. As the next generation of
computing evolves, software codec developers will be
able to apply more sophisticated algorithms. As video
applications become complex in fields requiring very high
resolutions images with 3-D motion for medicine, scientific
research, engineering, etc. so too will the codecs that are
needed to disseminate, receive and share information.
Software-based codecs, for a variety of reasons as noted
S. Ann Earon, Ph.D., is president of Telemanagement
above, are here to stay and offer developers and users the
Resources International Inc. and Founding Chairperson
flexibility needed to upgrade information and technology
of IMCCA, the non-profit industry association for
as it is needed, thereby eliminating expensive hardware.
collaborative conferencing. She can be reached via email
White Paper - The Value of Software-Based Video Codec - 1-800-945-7730 - -
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Information in this document subject to change without notice. © 2012 ClearOne. DOC-0114-001, Revision 1.0 September 2012.
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