Blue Jeans Network is a hot video conferencing startup that has been gaining a lot of attention even since before the public release of its product earlier this year. They raised $23M from a set of A-list investors with its cloud-based solution that aims to bridge any video conferencing platform from any device anywhere including room-based Polycom and Cisco, desktop Skype and GoogleTalk, and mobile Skype and Android tablet.
I had the chance to drop by their booth at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference last week after I gave my talk and was quite impressed with their demo. They showed me how beautifully Skype linked with Polycom on both desktop and tablet. The video quality was good, and overall I thought everything was very well done.
The Blue Jeans video conferencing User Experience
However, when I examined the design of how they make calls and share applications, I realized this is where Blue Jeans had issues. I was reminded of an old lesson I had learned in school – “don’t be compatible with a poor user experience.” This was one of the principles of Larry Tesler, the inventor of “cut and paste” and an influential designer who helped shape most of Apple’s products. It’s the problem of mixing water and oil: they just don’t mix. Likewise, the fundamental laws of design tell us that good and bad user experience don’t mix either. In other words:
Good user experience + Bad user experience ≠ Okay user experience
Good user experience + Bad user experience = Bad user experience
With Blue Jeans, linking products like Skype with its great user experience and Polycom and Cisco/Tandberg with their frustrating user experiences means the overall user experience is going to be poor. Another way to put it is you’re only as strong as your weakest link.
This isn’t to say that Blue Jeans doesn’t solve a real and critical problem in video conferencing. It’s perfectly understandable that enterprises which have already purchased a lot of expensive Polycom and Cisco/Tandberg hardwares are unwilling to chuck their legacy systems without a fight. But the reality is that more and more people are using Skype because of it’s better user experience. What Blue Jeans does for many companies (with its ability to bridge Skype and room-based hardwares) is to provide a great middle ground solution that allows them to justify the money that has already been poured into these slowly dying room-based behemoths.
Blue Jeans will have an OK Exit
On a business analysis note, my feeling is that Blue Jeans will have a good-but-not-great exit, eventually getting acquired by one of these hardware equipment guys like Polycom, Cisco or Avaya. Why do I think this? Unless the Blue Jeans user experience is amazing, they will not have the user growth necessary to justify a great exit. Very few people rave about how much they love their room-to-room hardware systems – so Blue Jeans is tying a dead weight around their customer experience which even Skype’s wings will not be able to lift up. However, Blue Jeans does add enough value to the hardware equipment guys to have a decent exit. As for VSee, an amazing user experience has always been our focus because ultimately we believe that the user experience is what matters the most!
Articles of interest
- Blue Jeans product release article with easy-to-read list of supported endpoints as of June 29, 2011.
- “Real” story of the origin of the Mac interface (with mention of Larry Tesler)