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As Usual, There's a Ton Going On.  Lines Are Blurring.  Here's What You Need to Know.

Posted by Kevin Gulley

Aug 22, 2016

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As seems to be the case every month, there’s lots going on in the communications space and summer hasn't slowed things down. Almost too much.  To help you keep up, here’s a quick rundown on things you need to know about from the last few weeks.

Cisco Launches Cisco Meeting Server, Leveraging Acano and Partnership With Microsoft

Cisco just announced their new product, Cisco Meeting Server, a solution designed to make it simple for customers to use Cisco video room technology with third-party solutions such as Skype for Business, Avaya, Polycom, WebRTC and mobile clients.  A couple of interesting aspects of this product:

  1. It is the first Cisco product to really leverage the Acano acquisition, and is developed to provide a simple, consistent user interface regardless of device or which video collaboration solution you are interacting with.  For more details, check out this excellent article by Zeus Karravala at Network World.
  2. Cisco and Microsoft collaborated closely on this product, ensuring that Skype for Business was an important aspect of the solution and marking a shift in attitude between the two competitors.  Who would have thought?  It goes to show that with the pace of changes and churn going on in the UC, video collaboration and overall communications space, even the big guys have to team up to maintain their leadership positions.  

Google Duo Takes Aim at FaceTime

Google just released Duo, a simple video calling app for Android and iOS, developed as a cross-platform alternative to FaceTime.  Unlike Hangouts or Skype, Duo is a one-to-one video calling solution that breaks down the walled-garden aspect of FaceTime, which is is a good thing.

I don’t use FaceTime a lot, but when I do, it’s great.  While on vacation a few weeks ago, a friend FaceTime’d me and used it to show me the harbor on Long Island that his family hangs out at (much better than looking at his ugly mug).  Duo extends that opportunity to friends using Android devices and according to The Guardian, eliminates friction in a variety of other ways when it comes to one-to-one video calling:

Amit Fulay, Google’s group manager for communications, said: “Users are reluctant to video call because they don’t know if the other person is on the right network, the right device or it’s a good time to call. We’ve tried to remove all that friction and make it feel like an invitation, not an interruption when someone calls you.

“Duo is all about simplicity and quality. It’s all about video calling. There are no frills, no knobs or dials to adjust, it just works.”

Duo seamlessly switches between mobile broadband and Wi-Fi without dropping the call, provides the so-called Knock Knock live feed of the caller before the recipient picks up as the phone rings and has a one-tap call button to jump straight into a video call.

Sounds like it would be worth having on your phone, especially if you have close friends or colleagues that use Android.

Messaging / Chat Apps Deploying Voice and Video Capabilities, Blurring Lines Between Apps and Comms

For those of you that have been using Slack or HipChat to streamline team collaboration on projects, you’ve probably been waiting and watching while these solutions work to extend their platforms to include voice and video collaboration.  Slack added ‘voice chat’ to their solution back in March and has made it clear that video conferencing is next on the hit list.  Their rival Atlassian, maker of HipChat (as well as the better known JIRA, a bug and feature request management system) beat them to the punch when it comes to video.  According to Fortune:

It already offered some basic video features, but the update makes video chat sessions simpler to initiate with one click, according to Atlassian. It also includes a new capability that enables participants to share their computer screens.

This team project space is fascinating to watch as they leverage a collaborative, project-based solution aimed at line-of-business users as a Trojan Horse to deliver more and more communications capabilities.  The lines are becoming so blurry it’s hard to keep up.

Skype Calls Come to Chromebook and Linux

I’m digging my new HP Chromebook.  Definitely an upgrade over the Gen 1 version I bought a few years back, with a better touchpad, a better keyboard, better performance and the same $249 price tag.  Even though my high school-aged kids are lobbying hard for Macbooks, all they really do is use the web, so I think Chromebooks are in their future and I’ll pocket the $2000 savings.

One downside is that when on the road, I haven’t been able to use Skype to make calls.  That just changed with an announcement from Microsoft that Chromebook users can now make voice and video calls via a new alpha-version of a product.  Woohoo!  They also announced a WebRTC (yes, MS released a WebRTC application) for Linux users to use Skype.   Read more details from Venture Beat.

Convergence is in full swing folks, enjoy the ride.

Topics: video, collaboration, UC Industry, Cisco, WebRTC, Industry News, Skype for Business