It was nice to get down to Orlando last week for the big event….except when I almost walked into a 6-foot alligator while walking around the pond by the convention center just before the event opened. Once I got inside (no need for coffee that day), in addition to meeting with several companies, I also made an effort to to speak with a bunch of attendees and walk around the show floor and get a good feel for the state of the enterprise communications market.
There was a nice buzz at this year’s event and I felt that in many ways the marketplace has come into its own in the last year. Whereas I felt that last year I was hearing a lot of the same story over and over and having trouble differentiating companies, this year the offerings and positioning had matured. Value propositions seemed more clearly defined, whether it was for UC, video, WebRTC or even device manufacturers. With that said, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at how I did with my predictions about what we’d see at Enterprise Connect this year.
Prediction 1 - Skype for Business Becomes an 800 Pound Gorilla
I knew it was going to be big, but it was more like a 1,200 pound gorilla. There was a ton of buzz about Skype for Business and everyone seemed to agree that Microsoft is becoming a dominant force in the market. And the several announcements they made did nothing to slow things down. In addition to the traction they have gained by including S4B and CloudPBX in Office 365, they announced a cloud-connector, which will be available in Q2, that allows businesses to use any carrier they want for CloudPBX and connect existing phone lines and phone numbers to Office 365 seamlessly. That could be a game changer.
They also made a bunch of announcements with Polycom around room based and video collaboration. There were a number of companies, like CallTower, that had S4B as part of their sales pitch. They also announced the extension of conferencing within CloudPBX to 32 countries. All of this increased the chatter about Microsoft flexing their muscles. Oh, and I finally saw a SurfaceHub, although still not available. I was assured that it was coming “soon”.
Prediction 2 - WebRTC Gains Traction
I thought that WebRTC was going to sneak its way into the mainstream and it is. Companies like CafeX, Genband and Sonus all have gained traction with their WebRTC development platforms, and the contact center space is quickly starting to take advantage of the browser-based communications protocol. CafeX is integrating click-to-call or click-to-video into mobile apps as well as browsers. Imaging being able to connect with an expert by clicking one button, sharing video with them and other features of your mobile device and having them help you troubleshoot a problem, all in real-time. Well, it’s already happening. You may have already used WebRTC and not even have realized it.
On another front, Interactive Intelligence has gone all in on WebRTC since last year’s PureCloud announcements. They have not only significantly extended PureCloud’s UC capabilities, they have also migrated their contact center to WebRTC much sooner than anticipated due to customer demand.
Prediction 3 - Huddle Up
Huddle rooms were everywhere at EC16 - at least they were a big topic of conversation throughout the show. There is no doubt that the number of meeting / conference rooms is And these meeting rooms are not just for internal meetings anymore. Meetings need to include home workers, partners, customer and prospects and the race is on to insure the meeting experience is seamless, simple and professional (and reasonably priced) for all involved.
Some great new huddle room speakerphones provide superior audio quality and are designed to connect easily (wirelessly or with cables) to laptops or mobile phones. Polycom and Logitech are going in big with cameras and video conferencing equipment and both are collaborating with Microsoft on Project Rigel, Redmond’s big push to bring Skype for Business to every meeting room. Keep your eye on this space, er, these spaces. Huddle rooms are getting ubiquitous quickly.
Prediction 4 - Bringing Remote Workers in from the Cold
In the same way huddle rooms are growing like crazy, so is the remote / home-based workforce for many companies. It seemed to me there was a lot more attention being paid to making sure the collaboration experience for these employees was immersive and engaging. If a significant portion of the workforce is not contributing during conference / video calls because they can’t see or hear what is going on or easily participate, that is a lost opportunity.
Related: Download Why Your Remote Workers Hate You - It’s Not What You Think
The device manufacturers were upping their game with desktop speakerphones, headsets and cameras all optimized for various UC platforms. The visual collaboration capabilities shown off by the likes of Prysm, Oblong and InFocus seriously change the game for in-office and remote collaborators.
Prediction 5 - Consolidation Will Be in the Air
OK, so on this one I didn’t do quite so well. Last year there was a lot of chatter about the market being ripe for consolidation and acquisition, but this year I didn’t hear much from anyone on this topic...and I was asking. Most people responded with a non-committal, ‘yeah, there’s room for M&A’, but nobody gave me any scoops.
The one big acquisition everyone was talking about was Cisco’s acquisition of Acano. There was a lot of discussion about how quickly Cisco was going to merge the Acano interoperability capabilities with Spark. And speaking of Spark, there was a lot of action at the Cisco booth and I thought the tight integration of Spark with CRMs like Salesforce was a great example of the merging of communications and productivity platforms.
So, four out of five...not too shabby. What did you see at Enterprise Connect? What were your major takeaways? Have you heard about any new acquistions? Let me know in the comments section below.