The Model T Ford and the democratization of Video Conferencing



The story of the Model T Ford is well known. Henry Ford, one of the great pioneers of mass production started building the Model T in September 1908 and by May 1927 when production finally ceased over 15,000,000 of them had rolled off the production line. During this time the Model T comprised as much as 40% of all the cars on the road.

The Model T wasn’t the fastest, most comfortable or the even the best made, but it was cheap. Henry Ford realised that the world needed a vehicle for the every man.

“I will build a car for the great multitude….. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one…..”

Henry Ford

Empowered Workers

It is interesting to note that sales really took off for Ford after he increased the wages of his workers so that the men on his own production line could afford to buy their own cars. For technology to be effective it needs to be available to the majority. Without cheap PC’s would the internet have taken off? Or electricity without Thomas Edison’s genius for mass deployable technology?

Rolls Royce’s

The Rolls Royces and Cadillacs may have looked down on the Tin Lizzie (a slang term for the Model T), but without it, these rich mans cars would have been useless for anything other than journeys around the city.

Today we take the road network as both a mark of civilisation and totally for granted. But we need to remember that it was only in 1903 that anyone had even driven across the USA, and the vast majority of that journey was on dirt tracks or trackless plains. It also took 63 days !! The CannonBall run it was not.

America belonged to the railways

Trans continental travel belonged to the railways not the automobile. Henry Ford changed that. Once ordinary people started receiving their vehicles they started to demand better roads. Those fancy cars got to drive on those nice new roads but they were built for the Model T.

So What has this got to do with Video Conferencing?

The Video Conferencing industry is presently where the car industry was in about 1910. The Cadilac’s and Rolls Royce’s have been driven about for a while, but the world has been waiting for the Model T to change the the definition of success and for a video culture to take off. Personally I’ve not been this energized by the market opportunities for 15 years.

So who’s the modern Henry Ford?

I don’t know their name but I think I know what they will look like. A Cloud based SaaS solution coupled with BYOSC (Bring Your Own Software Codec), in other words a service coupled with a Software codec on the individual's device.

At this point companies like Zoom, Starleaf, BlueJeans and Fuse are innovating hardest in this space. We are living in a Cambrian Moment.


The “device” is likely to be numerous devices, with accelerator technology enabling multiple people to participate in meeting rooms when necessary, technologies such as the Logitech CC-300e ,Logitech ConferenceCam Connect and Tely200 being among the most interesting at present.



There will probably be no clear winner in the Cloud space, and instead of attempting to bring everything under one roof, user’s will simply fire up the application they want to use for each meeting. After all, almost all of us do that with IM (Instant Messenger) anyway, so why not video? There are universal IM clients but most people prefer to simply use multiple different ones.



No Henry Ford no roads


Henry Ford didn’t kill Rolls Royce, in fact without him there would be no Rolls Royce, what Mr Ford did do is start the revolution that built the roads that Rolls Royce’s could cruise down. The Video Conferencing industry has, since its inception, had the problem of having no one to call. There were no roads. The explosion of players, business models and users in the SaaS world is building the Visual Communications network right in front of our eyes.


Rolls Royce Tractors?


In many respects the Video Conferencing world won’t look like the world of Henry Ford. I doubt anyone will take 40% or more of the market. But the roads are being built, clients are demanding solutions, and the world of SaaS is delivering.


As yet we might not know exactly what it’s going to look like but I think clients investing need to look for highly flexible solutions. Interestingly enough Tin Lizzies were often used by farmers as tractors, generators and water pumps. have you ever seen a Rolls Royce Tractor?



I have been in the Video Conferencing space for over 20 years and I’m excited about the opening up of the world. Now let’s go for a drive.