The Big Picture on Video
Warp drive was conceivable, but Star Trek’s most speculative technology from 1969 was face-to-face wireless, visual communications.
Today, video is everywhere. Most of my generation puts video conferencing in the same classification as jetpacks - never quite realized as we expected. The younger see it differently, and are confused why audio-only still even exists.
As video has spread, the video industry hasn’t fared well. That’s because most of the industry was built around expensive, complex hardware with high enough margins to support a network of channel partners for sales and support. With shrinking complexity (and margins), video has become pervasive - the industry’s fantasy and nightmare realized.
Looking through all the recent deals on Black Friday, the majority of the stuff was somehow suitable or complementary to video conferencing. But then again what isn’t? It’s as if Best Buy is pivoting to enterprise video with an extensive selection of smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming systems, monitors, televisions, drones, cameras, and headsets.
Visual communications is shifting from the expensive and few to the cheap and masses. The cast of conspirators is huge and includes consumer services, freemium models, and iDevices.
Here’s a quick recap of some recent events relative to enterprise communications.
Cisco Acquires Acano
In an very interesting move Cisco agreed to acquire Acano for $700 million. Acano’s technology should boost Cisco’s software-based initiatives, integration with Skype, and interoperability. Additional Information.
More announcements are expected from Cisco next week during its Collaboration Summit event.
Google continues to pretend it is serious about enterprise video. It recently announced the feature that conferences can now support guests without credentials. This may be a revolutionary feature for Google, but it is effectively standard (and has been for some time) for the rest of the industry. I do like Hangouts, but often feel Google just offers it to meet some internal need. Evidently a developer there had a need to meet with someone who didn’t have a Google userID.
I’ve always liked Lifesize. My first product was a Passport that worked with Lifesize systems and Skype. Then came the Icon series and a new new cloud service. More recently it appears to have begun a pivot to a pure cloud model indicative of a major staff reduction associated with its products. Each of these transitions probably made sense, but they have slowed momentum. Since cloud services are built long before the revenue arrives, the company will likely need to raise additional funds.
Rumor has that Logitech is looking to spin-out LifeSize. The two companies seem to have little synergy and in fact offer overlapping solutions. LogiTech is actually well poised for a video mass market. The company’s webcams are broadly supported by enterprise and consumer video services. Logitech recently hired Vidtel veteran Scott Wharton to grow its video business.
Polycom introduced several new video products recently: the Centro, Trio, and Debut. It also killed off an announced, but never delivered, solution known as the Roundtable 100 (intended for Skype4B). The Roundtable was co-announced by Polycom CEO Peter Leav and Skype4B leader Zig Serafin during his Enterprise Connect keynote last March. Other than the announcement itself, there were few details made available on the Roundtable. It appeared to be an Intel NUC running Skype.
Serafin and Leav co-announcing the Polycom Rountable at Enterprise Connect 2015
Roundtable is actually a better name for its new Centro product which is designed for a circular layout. The idea is that each user faces both in-room and remote participants. The Trio and Debut are aimed at the growing huddle room segment. The Trio is Polycom’s next generation speakerphone saucer with an optional video add-on processor and Logitech webcam. The Debut is a set-top accessory. Additional Information.
One of the more interesting video-related pivots I’ve seen is the Kapp from Smart. There are two flavors of Kapp. One is a very simple and familiar whiteboard that uses real Dry-Erase markers and the other is an electronic screen known as the Kapp IQ. Both of these make low tech drawing intuitive and easy to share with remote participants. The IQ version allows for multi-way pen-based collaboration between board and mobile devices. I think both products are very innovative, but it was the IQ version that recently won the Stevie Award for Product of the Year. Additional Information.
Skype For Business
As promised, Microsoft recently delivered on several new features for Skype For Business, including Meeting Broadcast that lets users broadcast a Skype4B meeting for up to 10,0000 people. Attendees can participate via browser and interact with real-time polling, chat, or via Yammer. The new E5 licensing option brings real-time video and audio services including PSTN directly into Office 365. Additional Information.
Tely released its newest all-in-one huddle room solution called the Tely 200. This is a room system solution designed to integrate with separate cloud-services such as Zoom or LifeSize and can integrate with Cisco and Polycom. The endpoint uses a management portal created by Tely to simplify distributed deployments. Additional Information.
ThinkingPhones and Fuze
ThinkingPhones acquired Fuze last month. This was actually a double acquisition because Fuze acquired Live Minutes earlier this year. The acquisition, if implemented successfully, will expand TPNs repertoire to include UCaaS, Workstream solutions, and video. TPN was heading down the WebRTC path which is a road filled with potholes. Additional Information.
Video continues its path of licensing its technology to other vendors that then integrate it into their own products and services. Notable wins include Google and Barclays. Most recently, Mitel expanded its agreement. Additional Information.
Zoom Video Breakout Rooms
Video technologies are increasingly used in classroom environments, but have not addressed well the concept of breakout rooms. Video Breakout Rooms allow a Zoom host to easily create smaller groups within a larger meeting. These breakout rooms support all of Zoom’s video and education features including video, audio, chat, whiteboards, and screen sharing. A meeting can be split into 50 breakouts with up to 200 participants each. The service is included with all Zoom plans including its freemium level. Additional Information.
Last year’s video roundup.