Teleconferencing, both voice and video, is poised to become an even more common and cheaper way of doing business. But will it mean fewer days on the road for the business traveler?
Perhaps not, and there is some thought it could lead to even more travel.
"You've still got to have this interface of people," said Michael Platt, director of commercial affairs for Hogg Robinson travel in Britain.
"At the end of a trans-Atlantic video conference you usually hear them say `See you next week,' " he said.
Another travel consultant said some companies have found video conferences are valuable for bringing groups from within the same company together, but even that can wind up stimulating the appetite for an in-person visit down the line.
Nonetheless, video conference technology is leaping forward.
AT&T, for instance, has a new video communications sytem for desktop personal computers it says lets users see and talk to each other as well as collaborate on computer files while they're at it.
The system can link several people in different locations on a single video call. It employs a tiny TV camera that can be strapped on top of the computer monitor, near the telephone or wherever convenient.
Prices for the system start at just under $4,000, although a control unit that can link up to 24 different sites runs an additional $60,000 to $200,000. …