The WebRTC game is full of compromises and challenges. Lifesize is looking to change that.
Lifesize just announced a new WebRTC App for its Lifesize Cloud service. I briefed with Director of Product Management, Rafi Anuar, to get the details.
Bringing business class videoconferencing to the browser has been anything but easy. The fact that each browser handles WebRTC differently has been an obvious and glaring cause of many implementation problems. Even putting that aside, it has been a struggle for many video vendors to provide a compelling WebRTC experience.
As a result, business video solutions have generally relegated the WebRTC connection to the role of “guest client”. You can connect to a video meeting from your browser, but it is a very basic connection. Often, basic functions such as chat or screen share are not even available. In order to get the full experience, users were generally required to download a program/client/desktop-app. In other words, something had to be installed and running on your PC or laptop to get all the bells and whistles.
I don’t like having a lot of programs running on my PC. I know programs are smarter and run lighter than they used to, but I’ve been conditioned from decades of slow running computers to try and shut down as many programs as possible. But I am happy to have plenty of tabs open in Chrome. It may be using just as many of my computer’s resources to run things in Chrome, but user preferences aren’t always based on reality.
For users like me, a full featured VC app in a Chrome tab is a no brainer. Lifesize is still going to keep its client version up to date for users who prefer it to the browser. Rafi made it clear that both versions will be equal in functionality, one is not a light version of the other. It will be interesting to see how their customers will choose between them. Both have the full suite of enterprise features such as directory support, scheduling, and telephony. I like the idea of using a browser tab to replace the desktop phone.
This isn’t just about user preferences though. Lifesize Cloud is now available to organizations with strict policies blocking downloads and program installations. It is also now available to customers deploying Chromebooks, since it runs on Chrome.
Internet Explorer and Firefox support are pending, but that is the only missing piece to this puzzle. What I really like about it is the no-compromise WebRTC implementation. I shouldn’t have to choose between using a light WebRTC connection for convenience or downloading an app for a business class experience. Providing the full Lifesize Cloud experience in an 100% native WebRTC app with no plug-in certainly moves Lifesize up in the list of WebRTC dev teams, and it will even more certainly be appreciated by its customers.