Skype Alternative – VSee

When people ask me how VSee compares to the other solutions in the marketplace, I’ll often say that VSee has the video quality of Polycom or Tandberg, the collaboration features of WebEx or Sametime, and the simplicity of Skype.  I’ll stand by that analysis, but Skype does pretty well on the quality front as well – here are my thoughts on VSee as a Skype alternative.

Skype is clearly oriented towards the consumer who wants to make cheap (or free) calls to far away places.  Not only does this mean it can dispense with a lot of business features such as application sharing, but it can take a more casual attitude towards the network it connects to.  In a business environment, that network and its connection to the Internet is shared with one’s co-workers.  If one user takes all of the available bandwidth, that person potentially could have a superior audio and video experience, but it that experience might be at the expense of other employees and it could disrupt mission-critical applications.  On the other hand, a home user has only to contend with neighbors and (if things get really bad) the cable company.

Recently, one of our customers noted that while he used VSee at work, his relatives preferred the audio and video of Skype, so I decided to have a look.

I made some VSee and Skype calls to colleagues in various parts of the world – as near as Pittsburgh and far as China.  Compared to the default settings of VSee, the audio and video were quite good.  If I had been using them on alternate days I might not have noticed, but side-by-side Skype appeared to have a slight edge.  So I decided to fire up Perfmon and have a look at the bandwidth that was being consumed.  The results were very interesting.  On average, Skype used about 500 kbits/sec, compared to VSee’s 120 kbits/sec.  Given that vast disparity, it was no surprise that Skype looked better, although not by much.  I told VSee to use high resolution video (640×480) which increased VSee’s usage to about 200 kbits/sec.  At that speed, VSee looked significantly better.  See for yourself (click on the image to see the full-size version):

Skype video quality

Click on image to see full size

So Skype took advantage of its consumer focus to grab more of the available bandwidth, but if one wants a better picture, VSee can still do better at any given data rate.

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