What is the WebRTC Opportunity for the Channel?

What is the WebRTC Opportunity for the Channel?

By Dave Michels June 14, 2013 2 Comments
What is the WebRTC Opportunity for the Channel? by Dave Michels

In this Industry Buzz podcast, the UCStrategies Experts discuss the opportunities that WebRTC presents the channel, specifically resellers, distributors, and consultants. Dave Michels moderates the conversation, along with Phil Edholm, Tsahi Levent-Levi, Kevin KiellerJim Burton, and Steve Leaden.

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Transcript for What is the WebRTC Opportunity for the Channel?

Dave Michels: Hi. This is Dave Michels. Welcome to the UCStrategies weekly podcast, and today’s topic is WebRTC. It’s a big topic, and so we are going to try to narrow it down to the channel opportunity, specifically around resellers, distributors, and consultants. WebRTC is a dynamic subject, getting a lot of conversation lately. Let’s start off with Phil Edholm to get initial thoughts on this. Phil? 

Phil Edholm: Thanks, Dave. Obviously WebRTC is getting a lot of interest and traction, because as we have talked about in the past, it is a fairly dynamic change in how communication is done. The real concept that communication moves away from centralized service providers to being driven by websites and much more open in terms of managing it has both some significant challenges, but also some significant opportunities.

As a thought process at a very high level, one can think about WebRTC as having four major impact areas: the enterprise space, the service provider space, general websites and finally, what I will call for lack of a better word, blue sky or new transitions. Obviously today we are talking more about the channels, so, the enterprise space is most interesting. But, within the service provider space it’s important to think about that you actually have a combination of the existing access provider, service providers, over the top service providers, and what typically you think of as the IdleX or the intermediate service providers. Obviously, in the website space, it is very interesting, because this opens up for all of the consultants and channels that websites that traditionally were not opportunities for communication services may in fact be opportunities now for communication services.

But, if we pull back and look very specifically at the enterprise, then we see actually some real fundamental opportunities, both on the telecom side as well as on what we call traditionally the contact center side. On the contact center side, WebRTC opens the possibility of much more directly integrating human interaction with the website. And in fact there are some fairly interesting companies out there that are making announcements in that space. You obviously see people like Genesys that are moving in contact centers, but you also are seeing some new players in that space, and so I think that is an area I would definitely look at in terms of opportunities for change, etc.

On the other side, on the enterprise telecom side, there again are some pretty significant opportunities and they are really coming, I think, in two very different ways. One is essentially WebRTC enabling existing telecom platforms. So, obviously vendors like Avaya and Cisco are looking very closely at WebRTC and how they can use it for BYOD, for generating portals, for improving communication services. But, then there are some new players coming out that I think everyone should be cognizant of. Obviously, in the conferencing space, people like Uberconference, who have done WebRTC. If you look in the video conferencing space, you see players like Vidtel who are doing WebRTC, people like TenHands. Video conferencing is an area where WebRTC is going to have a lot of impact.

So, I think from a channel perspective, WebRTC becomes interesting, because what it enables is the delivery of services that were much more complex in the past, potentially simplified. So, kind of as a thought process, Dave, for how to structure a conversation that might be a bit of a framework for us to plug into, in terms of areas of interest. I will turn it back to you. Thanks.

Dave Michels: Thank you, Phil. You talked about the number of prospects that the channel may have to call on is going to increase with WebRTC. That has been an interesting situation just because of the app economy and how decisions are moving into marketing organizations instead of IT. What do you think of this, Tsahi? Do you think the channel has an opportunity to be calling on vastly different customer sets because of WebRTC?

Tsahi Levent-Levi: It’s hard to say. I don’t think that the customers are going to change. I think that what is going to change is the way they interact with the contact center, or with the enterprise itself. Because today when you want to access the contact center or to connect to an enterprise, the way you do it is you go to the website, you see a phone number, you dial that phone number, you call, and then you need submit the information all over again. Now, with WebRTC you can do the same things that are very different in this type of interaction. The first one, you close the loop within the website off the company itself, so now the contact center itself can be accessed through the website, and then I have the context of who the person is, if he registered for example. I know where he has been through within the website, but I have a lot more information to go on, especially now when you see contact centers becoming more analytical in the way that they treat customers.

On the other hand if you look at the app economy, now I can build a self-service application that has this context button, the call button that again comes with a lot of context on top of it. You can do that without an WebRTC application, but it becomes way easier to do it when you use WebRTC for that.

Dave Michels: Okay, excellent. Kevin, I know that we can count on a contrarian view when it comes to WebRTC from you. What are your views on the channel opportunity? Is it all hype, or is there an opportunity emerging?

Kevin Kieller: Well, you know, Dave, I think it is mostly hype. I mean, WebRTC is a nice technology. There is no question that it allows more browser-based endpoints. And it probably will give us some new and interesting peer-to-peer gaming scenarios. But I don’t see how that is going to help the channel. Clearly, WebRTC, it is not a unified communication or collaboration or contact center solution. It is, at best, a small part of a business solution. So, from the channel perspective, if you are a UC&C or a contact center vendor, absolutely, get your developers to add a WebRTC client as an option. But, do this when it makes good market sense. And, that means if your end-users have Apple devices, or if they use Internet Explorer, then quite frankly, you need to wait, because Safari and IE browsers are not supported today with WebRTC.

If you’re a consultant, you probably can make some money in the short-term, riding the hype wave of WebRTC. It may be even promoting the WebRTC hype and talking to your customers and doing strategy planning for them. As a web developer, you can likely make some money updating websites to include some of the things that were talked about in terms of click-to-chat or click-to-call. But, of course, all the WebRTC proponents keep telling people how easy it is to add this with a few lines of code, so as a web developer maybe you won’t be able to charge a lot for that, because you have already convinced people it’s easy.

The truth is, WebRTC on the Web, it solves some problems that already have solutions. So, here’s the thing. Visit Dell.com; I guarantee up will pop this thing that is from an agent that says, “Do you want to chat?” If you want, they will call you. Okay, yes, you are not calling them, but quite frankly, they will call you on a phone as opposed to your PC where you may not have a headset. They have all the contacts in terms of the pages. So WebRTC, it’s a nice solution, but it is a solution that has already been solved.

If you are a systems integrator or value-added reseller, WebRTC is mostly bad news, because WebRTC is going to take money out of your pocket by lowering the cost, either driving it to a low-cost or no-cost endpoint. Of course, there will be some licensing if you connect to a real UC&C or contact center solution. I’m pretty sure that Shakespeare wrote this: “WebRTC is really much ado about, if not nothing, then very little.”

Dave Michels: Well, that’s quite a statement there...You’ve gotta admit, there’s been a lot of progress in WebRTC since Shakespeare’s time…and maybe things have come around at this point. Doesn’t hype fuel the channel? The channel has a tough time selling things like, let’s say things like HD audio, because there is no hype around it. And, so, isn’t hype exactly what you want as a channel participant?

Kevin Kieller: Well, last week’s podcast, interestingly enough, was about how CIOs and IT need to focus on solving real business problems. And, I think, hype can get you in, but at the end of the day – and this is what I keep looking for. I like WebRTC as a developer. I think it’s really cool. I can write a couple of lines of code and click and I can call from my browser to another browser. It’s really cool, but, it is not really doing anything that I cannot do better using a product that I already have on my desktop. So, the hype is interesting and it gets you the meeting, but you have to deliver something that has business value, and so far, my take is it doesn’t let me do anything that I cannot already do.

Dave Michels: Do you agree with that, Tsahi? I have a feeling you don’t.

Tsahi Levent-Levi: Well, I do to some extent, because WebRTC doesn’t bring anything new. It just makes things a lot easier to do. Now, I can say the same things about the difference between JavaScript and assembly code. Whatever I can write with JavaScript, I write with assembly code, but look at how many companies we have who run JavaScript, which is essentially a scripting language that nobody makes money out of? So, this is the change that WebRTC brings.

And, I want to tell you short story. I had been invited about two or three months ago to a meeting of the IT people in Amdocs, to another large organization, internal organizations, to their IT people, where the Amdocs guys wanted to consult with the other company about what they think about the UC solutions that they have inside. Because today, large companies have more than a single UC solution. You have a solution that runs, you have your Polycom or Cisco that runs for your video cards, you have your Avaya or Nortel or whatever. For Cisco, doing the PBX stuff, and the systems don’t cooperate with one another. You have Lync running for the softphones and now you need to merge them into a single system.

And what they found out with this other company was that there is no single solution that fixes this. They can’t go with Cisco and they can’t go with Microsoft Lync. Why, because it doesn’t provide the solution that they need as a company, the requirements that they have internally. And, what they said, and this was for me a surprise, that they see WebRTC as the end-game for them, as the solution that they want to see being adopted, and they are looking for a vendor that can provide everything around WebRTC. Not a solution that has WebRTC in the outliars and provides some kind of interconnection with WebRTC, but something that has everything at the core of it is based on WebRTC. And you see that from a large corporation, that requires a UC solution, and they are looking for their future needs.

Dave Michels: One of the issues I see with WebRTC is, it is a set of tools as opposed to an application. And, we kind of went through this with Open Source. When Open Source came out, people said that is going to be the end of the proprietary PBX, or even UC system, and that didn’t come true. And, the reason it didn’t come true, is because enterprises don’t want to buy tools necessarily, they want to buy solutions that come with certifications so you can hire staff, that come with maintenance plans and upgrade plans. And, so I am wondering where WebRTC fits.

Now Kevin, you said that the consultants can use WebRTC to get into the door. So, I’m going to go back to Steve Leaden here, as a consultant. Do you think that enterprises are looking for the toolset that WebRTC may offer, or are you finding that they are asking more about how their vendors will be embracing WebRTC?

Steve Leaden: Dave, we’ve had some discussions with a couple of clients on this exact topic, and I think it kind of starts with the Asterisk mentality: is WebRTC potentially free add-in, at least conceptually, to the browser, and therefore, what do you get for free? Obviously, Asterisk has their place and their support model is obviously different than your more traditional, more proprietary vendor. So, that’s kind of the first question. And, then the other question that comes into play is, what’s the gain of support from the manufacturing community, from the Ciscos, from the Microsofts, from the Avayas, from the Interactive Intelligence, the Siemens, the NECs, the Mitels, etc., of this world. What are they going to do to embrace WebRTC?

So, from my vantage point, really, it’s another way to communicate. And, if you do not address it at some point, as a way to collaborate, as a way to engage the customer, especially in the contact center with a multi-channel opportunity, I think, you, as either the consultant or as the value-added reseller, I think you are losing definitely an opportunity.

So, the good thing is, is that we are definitely in this hype cycle stage, we are definitely in this early adopter stage, so I think to set your sails into the WebRTC space, either as a consultant or a VAR, I think there is time to create this channel opportunity. And depending upon how it really lands, Dave, in the end, it could be either a disruptor or it could be an opportunity. For example, from a disruption point of view, Kevin just alluded to it, that there will be less endpoints to sell, and therefore, less revenue definitely on to the channel itself.

And, actually, we are talking to a client right now who is interested in actually reducing their endpoint count by close to 20 percent, because they want to use other means, including softphones and mobile phones, to replace that desktop phone. So, it’s kind of interesting how that is kind of playing and how that is going to affect the final revenue in that particular client model. And, it’s also a developer’s dream from that vantage point on the opportunity side. There is definitely the opportunity to sell Session Border Controllers as another arm of your business and knowing more about that particular space, and really looking at security as an area that you can, again, create that niche. Because, WebRTC has all of the security rules built around it, including ICE and STUN being some of the protocols you have to consider.

So, and then finally, from my vantage point, we have new players that are entering the market and they have to consider voice and video as not just another application. They have to consider it as an application that requires quality of service and some type of 9s model, four to five 9s at least, in order to contend in this particular space, and if they do not follow those kinds of rules, I think it could potentially fail. So, lots to talk about, Dave.

Dave Michels: That’san excellent staff shot, Steve, from a consultant’s perspective. From a resource perspective it is a lot about what products you have or what vendors you are aligned with. Let me ask Jim Burton. Phil mentioned a couple of different vendors, like Vidtel and UberConference, that are offering WebRTC now. Jim, do you see the major vendors that the channel may already have relationships with embracing the WebRTC opportunity, or do you think it is going to be a lot of these new startups only that will be offering the solutions?

Jim Burton: Well, I think that we are going to see a variety of things. I think that, like any new technology, you have a group of companies who see it as a threat to what their current platform is. And the one that comes to mind there would be Microsoft with Skype. Then you see companies that are in the contact center space who are embracing it. A number of us were at the Interactive Intelligence conference recently and you know from that conference that they are certainly giving it a good look and working on it. And, then you start thinking about other companies, who have not embraced communications as part of the UC solution, that you can see how they could really benefit from this. And, who comes to mind there is IBM. There is a way for them to get in the communication space, looking at next generation product,s as opposed to the current generation of products, or even last generation products to help them broaden their product portfolio and their platform.

So, I actually would anticipate that a lot of companies will be jumping into it. If you have legacy communication stuff, you are going to have to look at it as to what does it do to you, and I have to believe at the end of the day it’s something that all of them will participate in. Microsoft has publically announced that when the standard is resolved, they will support it. They, of course, would like that to take a long time. Others would like to have it happen a little bit sooner. So, we will just have to wait and see how that works out. But, to specifically answer your question, I think we will see a lot of vendors supporting it over time. It is just a matter of, for them, how quickly they will want to jump in and support it, the politics involved, and of course the size of the company to jump in and make that decision. IBM will take a lot longer to make that decision than a small startup company, or some company that actually sees real benefit from it in the short-term.

Dave Michels: Thank you, Jim. Phil, an additional comment?

Phil Edholm: As some of you are aware, I am very involved with the WebRTC Conference and Expo, which is actually the 25th through the 27th of this month in Atlanta. And, I think if you really want to understand what is happening in WebRTC, you need to come to that. Go to the website, look at the companies that are there. There are going to be thirty-five demos and a lot of these are the companies we are talking about here, from the Avayas to the Genesys to the Genbands to Oracle. So, thanks, Dave.

Dave Michels: All right. Thank you. So, we are going to wrap up the podcast, I want to go back to Tsahi for some closing comments. Tsahi?

Tsahi Levent-Levi: Yes, two small things. I am tracking the companies that actually use WebRTC and adopt it, it started like 30 companies about, I think, half a year ago or something like that or maybe a year ago, and now it is 150 companies already…

Dave Michels: I am sorry, Tsahi. You are tracking companies that are using it or offering applications...what are you tracking exactly?

Tsahi Levent-Levi: It’s using it in one way or another. Mainly, it’s developing something on top of it and then hosting it, selling it as a service to someone else, providing it as an API integrated into a gateway or PBX or whatnot. So, there are 150 companies that have found out ways of using WebRTC within their existing solutions, or building their whole business around WebRTC, something brand new.

So, it’s hard for me to see it as a hype, and one of the examples there today is Zendesk. Zendesk provides CRM solutions over the Web, help desk solutions, and they just added WebRTC into it today. If you are using Zendesk and you have Chrome, you can dial through the Web and do the calls over there, as an additional channel into their CRM system. Now, if they are doing it and they have, I think, over 200,000 users that are using the system, then why not other contact centers.

Dave Michels: Okay. Well, then I think we are going to wrap this up. Thank you very much to the UC experts and we will be back next week with a different topic.


2 Responses to "What is the WebRTC Opportunity for the Channel?" - Add Yours

Art Rosenberg 6/22/2013 7:04:53 PM

I am sorry that I wasn't able to join your discussion, but I was glad to see recognition of the contact center as an important target for WebRTC. In particular, I have identified the need for supporting mobile customer services with flexible options for live assistance within any mobile self-service application. WebRTC would be an ideal tool to easily and efficiently support such connections.

As Jim mentioned, Interactive Intelligence is making innovative moves with it's "Interaction Mobilizer," which is pre-integrated with access to its contact center products and services. So, a big driver for such change will be what I have called "Consumer BYOD," coupled with mobile business apps that enable flexible "click-for-assistance" options.

You can read more about that perspective at:

However, as far as the opportunities for channel partners go, they will have to become more expert in participating in the design of "mobile apps" that exploit access to live assistance. It is like the next generation of IVR applications that allowed access to an agent by pressing "0," but much more flexible and efficient. Unlike the example given by Kevin where an online user is automatically invited to "chat," that would one of the options controllable by the individual customer. In addition, it will be very "contextual" in terms of matching the customer's needs with available expertise. Finally, because it can exploit increased mobile accessibility, there is more flexibility in how and when such assistance can be provided.

So, I see consumer mobility being a big driver for WebRTC and that's another area of security that needs new implementation expertise.
Barry Freedman 7/2/2013 9:09:44 AM

What Zendesk is doing looks really cool.

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