The stars are aligning for a relative explosion in the use of desktop video in the enterprise, or – more correctly – video using a device other than a room-based system.
With a slew of new options at their disposal, from established UC players to startups, and the available bandwidth to make it work reliably (for the most part), it appears 2015 could (finally) be the year that video really takes off in the enterprise.
We’re hearing anecdotal reports that suggest as much, such as a recent conversation my colleague Kevin Gulley had with an executive who’d recently finished a successful UC rollout. She says her team is now employing video all the time, from their desktops. Previously, video was strictly the domain of conference rooms, which is to say – it was used relatively rarely. Now she says conference room reservations are way down but video usage is way up – simply because the UC solution makes it easy to use.
Numbers Point to Increased Desktop and Mobile Video
Recent numbers and analysis from market watchers Infonetics bear out her story. Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video at Infonetics Research, has this to say in his most recent Enterprise Telepresence and Video Conferencing Equipment report, for Q2 2014:
Demand for videoconferencing capabilities remains strong as evidenced by the growth in endpoint shipments, but there are several shifts in the market that keep down revenue growth, from high-cost to low-cost hardware endpoints, from hardware to software, and from infrastructure to services.
He puts the total market at $752 million in Q2 2014, up a mere 2% from the year-ago quarter. But endpoint shipments increased 66%, from the same quarter last year, “owing to growth in software sales.” And then there this:
The dedicated system segment struggled again in 2Q14 due to pricing pressures and a shift to lower-cost endpoints; however, the rate of decline is stabilizing.
IDC paints much the same picture in its Worldwide Enterprise Videoconferencing Equipment 2014 Vendor Assessment, released in July. IDC cites 2 years of declining revenue growth in the market, saying:
This is mostly attributed to the impact of delayed customer buying decisions, lower-cost systems, more software-centric solutions, and the rise of cloud-based video services offerings for business
Videoconferencing Trends and Advice
Among the positive trends IDC cites, however, are:
Increasing uptake of video collaboration by small workgroup, desktop, and mobile users; new video deployment options expanding the market to midsize and small companies; more business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) video use; and interest in browser-based video collaboration.
Number one among the key criteria that IDC says contributes to a successful enterprise video offering is this:
The ability to move beyond standalone videoconferencing, call control, and point solutions and offer a holistic video/UC&C solution that can integrate with business processes in order to be transformative for the business.
And IDC’s “Advice for Buyers” section begins with this:
For some organizations, there remains a challenge in getting enterprise employees to habitually meet and collaborate via video, but the barriers to acceptance of video in the business environment are rapidly diminishing, especially as video becomes more of an integrated application for communications and collaboration for all users, not just for those in central room locations.
IDC also advises customers looking for “less capital-intensive options” to consider Web browser-based video, saying it views browsers as another type of video endpoint. That’s a fair point, especially as WebRTC begins to take hold.
But IDC is also correct about one of the downsides to the browser option: video quality. Surely we’ve all experienced the painful Web conference where someone can’t see the screen that’s supposed to be shared and at least some participants wind up referring to a PowerPoint that the presenter sends via email. “OK, now let’s turn to side 5.” You can imagine many of the same problems with Web-based video, at least until we work the kinks out.
Options Abound for Desktop and Mobile Video
On the other hand, with more and more players entering the desktop and mobile video picture, it does bring some level of confidence. Besides the major UC players such as Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Unify and such, there are a number of startups with supposedly easy to implement video collaboration tools.
Glip, for example, offers chat, tasks, calendar, file sharing and video conferencing. It cites an MIT study claiming that workers spend 36% of their time in their in-box and says “Glip gives you that time back.” (I could find no reference to that figure in the Harvard Business Review story that Glip’s MIT reference points to, however.)
Another new player, HipChat, offers “Group and 1:1 chat with audio, video, and screen sharing.” Which begs the question: when does a video chat become a videoconference? Is it simply a matter of numbers – when you get to 3 it’s a conference? Or does “chat” connote some sort of lesser experience than a “videoconference.” One wonders.
Not to be left out by the cool kids, Cisco joined the fray last month by announcing Project Squared, a “virtual conference room” that includes messaging, file sharing and video via an app that works with the iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, and Web browsers.
It’ll be interesting to see how all this shakes out but it seems almost certain that more videoconferencing is in your immediate future. But not mine – I’ve got my laptop shut and will not be putting a camera on my external monitor anytime soon. That would negate one of the best things about working from home: the dress code.