Smiling About Video
There is no UC technology with more excitement right now than video. Not because it is new, because it isn’t. Not because it is dominant, because it isn’t. Video is transitioning from the periphery to the mainstream of how we communicate. The democratization of video is upon us – and it changes everything. It’s the result of camera ubiquity, inexpensive broadband, and smart mobile devices.
I’ve written before that audio-only is an unnatural approach to communications that only seems normal because video has been the exception. We were taught that video required high-cost equipment and networks. Because it was the exception, it wasn’t natural, and remained confusing and frustrating. However, audio-only communications deprives us of sight and that is awkward.
Video has traded its Sunday suit for a t-shirt and is blending into our daily workflow. The technology is now intuitive, natural, and accessible. As a result there’s tremendous recent video news occurring across the industry. Here’s a smattering:
I wrote about the new Lifesize Cloud last October. The service launched last June, and LifeSize now claims over 600 business customers which represents thousands of paid (annual user) subscriptions. In a brief discussion with CEO Craig Malloy, he confirmed that growth is accelerating which doubly excites him because subscriptions tend to drag room system sales. The ability to pair a software-based app service with conference room systems is not common.
Lifesize soon plans to integrate with Lync and Google Apps as well as support WebRTC. Calendaring integration will be offered for both Outlook and Google Calendar. The company also added two huddle room solutions to its lineup. The Lifesize Icon 400 is similar to the Icon 600, but in a smaller, all-in-one footprint for about $2,500.
The Icon Flex is a similar all-in-one device, but as it is a USB-connected device it can also be used with other applications such as Lync, Hangouts, Skype, Jabber, GoToMeeting, and WebEx. It’s not a new concept, but may be the first from a videoconferencing vendor. The Flex enables a PC or Mac to transform into a small conference room system as needed.
SMART is well known for its interactive boards used heavily in education and architecture. However, its SMART Room System (SRS) for Lync is building traction as a general business tool that combines two popular needs: the whiteboard and videoconference monitor.
SMART recently announced that it productized several popular services:
The SMART Usage Reporting service provides detailed reports on performance, quality of experience, system utilization, and user adoption.
The Proactive Monitoring service tracks the health and operability of the SMART solution.
SMART is riding the Lync wave and simultaneously enhancing the capabilities of SRS with its years of experience in collaboration. Expect to see many upcoming announcements from SMART including new support offerings and services that will minimize the costs and skills associated with video collaboration. The SRS itself is managed the same way as other Lync clients because SRS uses the same server infrastructure. Lync users find the technology completely accessible. It offers one of the fastest solutions for on-time meetings: just walk into a room and touch the screen.
I first met Zoom.us a few years ago and I’m shocked how much this company has grown and changed. The portfolio expanded from cloud-based video services to also support webinars and a bridging service. The core video meeting service now supports up to 200 interactive videos (in multiple pages of 25 per screen). The idea is that a corporate account can now host a company-wide meeting with two-way video. If you don’t need two-way, then use the webinar format and broadcast to 3,000 view-only attendees, though the webinar description sells it short as it is not just slide-share. The service supports HD video of people or content (including wireless screen-share from iOS) with recording, registration, and calendar integration. Prices start at $49/mo for sessions that support up to 100 attendees.
Zoom.us is now on version 3.5, and the company claims more than 30 million participants and over 30,000 global business customers.
Avaya is turning up its focus on both cloud and video with its recent (re)launch of AvayaLive. The new cloud video service is powered by its own Scopia equipment and offers features such as virtual meeting rooms, OpEx model, HD/1080P resolutions, meet-me bridging, and mobile clients. What is particularly noteworthy here is its dual paths to market. AvayaLive Video can be purchased both directly as a retail offer and indirectly through its partner network.
Many cloud services have agent programs, but Avaya has created an interesting reseller program. The service itself remains hosted within Avaya data centers, but partners are able to set prices, rebrand, and bundle. Cloud channels are maturing, and this option allows a partner a quick startup to a robust, direct offer.
Cisco announced the biggest news in video. The Telepresence IX5000 is actually the largest product Cisco makes at 14’ long x 7 15/16” wide (design goal was < 8”). This is the new and improved room system, now without the room.
From a hardware perspective the IX5000 is elegant. A single standard power outlet is all that’s needed for its cameras, displays, sound, and lighting - yes the lights are built-in. All three 4k cameras are housed within a single unit. The system is self-standing and requires little to no “room remediation.” I’m not an immersive room system hardware advocate, but I want one. The software is elegant, too. For example, it knows if someone stands-up and it can automatically zoom out rather than allow the head to be cut off. With some 4k magic, it can digitally straighten skewed angles. The IX5000 is also designed to reduce total bandwidth required for video with its onboard support of the H.265 codec.
That’s all for this post, but there’s a ton more to say - Google Hangouts updates, WebRTC codec changes and related new solutions from Voice4Net, BroadSoft, and Genband, Circuit and Project Squared, Vidyo’s Lync angle, an Alternative to YouTube from ALUE, and so much more. Video is where it’s at.