You might be asking yourself right now, why on earth is Mark talking about a monitor when he should be talking about Unified Communications. If this is the conversation going on in your head then let me refer you to the 'Unified Communications Devices Coming to a PC near you' post I made a while back and read on.
One of the lesser discussed features of OCS and Communicator is the ability to do video chats with people inside and outside of the organisation. Now for some reason, video is one of those things that has never taken off as much as voice and presence and so I sat down and had a think about it. This is what I came up with
Pros of using video chat over voice chat
- Conversations are shorter and more efficient, how many calls have you been on at work where you are also reading your email at the same time as being on the call?
- Video chat enables you to detect subtle tell-tale signs of someone's understanding or mood. I have been on a few video calls now where I explain something and detect a raised eyebrow or frown, you can't see that down a phone 🙂
- Enables you to put a face to the name/voice, makes if far easier for me to remember who is who
So why doesn't everyone do it then?
- When you phone someone, you know they will be able to hear you and speak back, with video this isn't always the case because you don't know if their location and equipment is all in place
- I usually do 'video call' by default and the response is normally 'I don't have a webcam'. There is nothing in the technology that stops us doing a one-way video chat (with audio two way) ... there is however something inbuilt into people that means they don't want to do video unless its two way. Do they perhaps feel guilty that they are not sharing as much as me?
- Ubiquity of webcams is needed in order to make this possible. Unlike the speaker and microphone which is present in almost every PC or laptop, we can't say the same for webcams. In order for the 'I don't have a webcam attached' response to disappear, you need webcams to be so ubiquitous that its a 'given' you have one connected.
This is really where the Samsung 225UW comes into its own!
I received a sample unit a few months back from Samsung and after forklifting it onto my desk (its 22inches of widescreen loveliness) I plugged it into my laptop via the monitor cable and plugged connected it up via USB and after a short 'Installing drivers...' I was done.
What I like about it?
- Using the webcam is simply and it just works. Brilliant quality picture and its great that I don't need to remember to plug in the webcam anymore. The webcam is tiny and discreet which means most people don't even notice its there
- Design is beautiful. It's black (which is the new silver/white of course), only has one button on the front (on/off), has a blue light to show if its on or not (blue lights on electronics is a must), microphone and speakers are 'invisible'
- Rear of monitor has two extra USB slots (its a USB hub!), 3.5mm microphone jack and 3.5mm headphone jack. This means I can plug in all my equipment into the monitor rather than my laptop
- With a PC under your desk, in your own office or home office this could be the only think you need on your desk, no need for a phone as everything you need is in the monitor.
Would I change anything?
- My only product suggestion for the next version would be to pop a 'mute' button (for speaker and/or microphone) somewhere easily accessible. I have had a few occasions now where Vista has output my music etc to the speakers in the monitor when none of the other outputs where available. As much as I love to listen to a bit of J Tizzle 😉 ... I might not want the rest of my team to know what I was listening to and a mute button would have shorten my embarrassment.
Apart from that minor suggestion, its quite hard to fault the Samsung 2225UW to be honest. It's easy on the eyes and exceeds expectations. If our office at Microsoft wasn't open plan or if I had a house big enough to have a 'home office' I would seriously consider having this as my only device on the desk most of the time. Even though my environment is neither of those, I would still recommend buying this over a 'normal' monitor as it will enable us to have a webcam on 'every desk in every office' .... heard that one before?