Blue Jeans Network looks to expand access to affordable videoconferencing

In a light-hearted billboard plea, company calls on Yahoo to reconsider pulling in its telecommuters

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision last month to call all of the company's telecommuters back to the office posed a creative challenge for video collaboration services provider Blue Jeans Network.

In response, the three-year-old startup added a humorous "Call us Marissa! We can help" line to a billboard that Blue Jeans erected in Silicon Valley.

The company's billboard was followed by last week's launch of a free Blue Jeans iOS app in the App Store for HD video conferencing and content sharing. Blue Jeans then announced a partnership with Tely Labs to provide an affordable conference room video collaboration appliance called telyHD for about $1,000 that bundles an HD video camera, speakers and microphone. A flat-screen TV or other display is extra.

All the other technology required for a videoconference is provided by Blue Jeans in the cloud, company officials said.

Blue Jeans also said it would begin offering dual streams for both interactive videoconferencing and content sharing. The products are being shown at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando through Thursday.

A year after it launched, Blue Jeans began promoting videoconferencing in the cloud to bridge traditional conference rooms with remote users from their desktops, laptops or mobile devices, and is now adding in the free iOS app. The company can network together videoconferencing endpoints from Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize, Sony, Huawei, Microsoft Lync, Skype, Google, any Web browser as well as telephones.

James Matheson, vice president of marketing at Blue Jeans, said the company has thousands of customers, ranging from small businesses to those in the Fortune 500 with up to half a million videoconferencing minutes used in a month.

High costs for videoconferencing have prevented many companies from relying on the technology, he said. "You used to pay through the nose to see the other person's nose," he said in an interview conducted via videoconference with Computerworld and accessed via a Web browser.

Matheson and a colleague appeared in the videoconference wearing jeans. "With a name like Blue Jeans, you have to expect that," he said.

Blue Jeans has dropped the cost of a videoconferencing connection to about what it costs to make an average audio conferencing connection, Matheson said. That puts the Blue Jeans service at 15 cents to 20 cents a minute per user on a video conference call.

At that rate, Blue Jeans would be affordable to any business, including Yahoo or others that need to connect workers from a variety of devices over great distances, Matheson said.

Blue Jeans Network billboard
This billboard was erected by Blue Jeans Network to promote affordable videoconferencing, with a plea to Yahoo after its CEO Marisa Mayer called on telecommuters to return to the office. (Image Blue Jeans Network)
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