The Past, Present, and Future of Video Telephony


July 26, 2011


Dave Lindbergh


Hooke Laboratories


Video telephony has been confidently predicted as the killer app of the future – the replacement for voice telephony – since at least 1927, yet attempt after attempt has met with failure in the marketplace, except for niche applications. I will look at what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and the fundamental (and challenging) changes needed before video telephony can make the transition from niche to successful mass-market application.

Early “television” was envisioned as an extension of the telephone, rather than an extension of radio. Today video conferencing is a successful niche application in enterprise environments, but most conference rooms still aren’t video equipped, despite ever-cheaper and more capable equipment. Videophones have been introduced with much fanfare and optimism dozens of times since the 1960s, yet have always failed to achieve widespread adoption and use on the scale of voice telephony. The reasons for this are rooted in our origins as savannah apes with interpersonal communication skills highly adapted to life in tribes of 50 to 300 individuals – and the failure of engineering imagination to accept that this means visual communication is not “just another channel” along with text and audio, but something that must be treated as fundamentally different.


Dave Lindbergh

Dave Lindbergh leads the company’s development of laboratory instrumentation systems that will help in vivo scientists with their work. Prior to joining Hooke, Dave was Director of Standardization at Polycom, Inc., where he was active in international telecommunications standardization, including Committee T1, TIA, IETF, ISO/IEC and ITU, where he served as Rapporteur for ITU-T Study Group 16 Question 23 (“Media Coding”), as a principal contributor to ITU-T Recommendations H.223, H.224, H.281, H.460.18, H.460.19 and V.140, as editor for Recs. H.226, H.239, H.241, and H.324, and as chairman of the H.324 Systems Experts, H.264 Requirements, and H.264 Applications groups. Dave also served on the Board of Directors of the International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC), as chairman of its Requirements WG and co-chair of its Media Processing and IPR activity groups. He is a co-author of Digital Compression for Multimedia: Principles and Standards (Morgan Kaufmann, 1998), and a contributor to Multimedia Communications (Academic Press, 2001) and the Wiley Encyclopedia of Telecommunications (John Wiley & Sons, 2002). In 2002 he received an IMTC Leadership Award for his contributions to the standardization community. In 1981 Dave founded Lindbergh Systems, maker of OMNITERM data communications software.