The news from ABI Research that enterprise videoconferencing infrastructure and endpoint hardware revenues are forecasted to be relatively flat through to 2020 (2.1% CAGR) will come as no surprise to those who follow this sector. Not that this has deterred newcomers to the market from bringing new voice, data and video collaboration solutions to the market. But, as ABI, concludes “software solutions are becoming a more popular choice, with the ability to extend existing infrastructure and endpoints and lessen the need for installing new permanent hardware.” AV News reports on developments.
With Skype for Business still the very early stages of adoption, Polycom has been quick off the mark with the introduction of its RoundTable 100.
“With the current market focus on cloud computing and hardware virtualsation, dedicated hardware sales will see little growth in all video delivery markets, including videoconferencing and telepresence hardware,” concludes Eric Abbruzzese, Research Analyst at BI Research. He goes on to say that: “Hardware-focused companies like Cisco, Polycom, and Avaya, will have difficultly seeing success in both infrastructure and endpoint sales if their products do not adapt to the virtualisation-focused markets.”
If this conjures an image of product managers with heads in hands, it is important to recognise that the established players have been preparing for the change for some time. While the transition to virtualised solutions will prompt sweeping changes to the current business model, Polycom, Cisco etc will still be among the industry leaders in unified communication, however it is delivered.
The challenge for the leaders in hardware room systems is to migrate SMB end-users away from the pure consumer videoconferencing (like Skype, ooVoo, and Google Hangouts) which continue to see strong growth, to products in their professional portfolio. Small businesses, not interested in investing in large, permanent hardware solutions for videoconferencing, have the opportunity to select these enhanced consumer solutions as they offer similar (albeit reduced) features to enterprise solutions, for a reasonable price.
Fortunately, the providers of some of the most popular consumer solutions have recognised the potential value in taking their solutions up-market, so creating the opportunity to meet in the middle. At much the same time as ABI published its analysis, Polycom announced the first solution designed specifically for Skype for Business – a nice consumer-friendly name for what we used to call Microsoft Lync.
With Skype for Business still in the very early stages of adoption, Polycom has been quick off the mark with the introduction of its RoundTable 100 SMB collaboration solution. This is described as an “affordable and easy-to-use video solution for huddle rooms that will allow small to midsized businesses (SMB) and teams with Skype for Business and Lync 2013 to enjoy rich collaboration experiences,” including voice, video and content collaboration.
Polycom has designed the RoundTable 100 to be installed and operated with a minimum of tech support and disruption to infrastructure. Peter Leav, Polycom’s president and CEO, outlined that strategy for the new products: “We are now expanding our solutions to allow SMBs, as well as large enterprises, to reap the benefits of video collaboration.”
Among those who know their way around the UC market, the Polycom name holds the brand advantage. The unknown factor is how far this extends into the general B2B community. With virtualisation, companies, such as Blue Jeans and Vidyo, are able to offer fully featured, enterprise-focused services without the need for dedicated infrastructure and endpoints. With a technology that is largely brand neutral and based on open standards, new players are able to offer these technologies on incredibly competitive terms.
Video As A Service
Do virtualisation and the lower costs achievable with the cloud offer the established players in on-premise UC a safe haven? With the barriers to entry so much reduced, there is scope for new entrants to compete with the current technology providers purely on the basis of a service-based offering. Again, Polycom is significant here, having announced RealPresence Cloud, Video as a Service (VaaS) in the UK in the autumn of last year.
Polycom partnered with Imago ScanSource to be the first to market with Polycom RealPresence Cloud Video Meeting Services, a Polycom Powered subscription-based, cloud video service.
RealPresence Cloud Video Meeting Services is offered via Polycom partners for customers wanting a cloud video service that is flexible, scalable and providing equivalent enterprise-grade security and interoperability.
VaaS-t is an ‘always-on’ service based on virtual meeting rooms or VMRs connecting a variety of voice and video endpoints, priced by participant or by the minute. Polycom offers RealPresence Cloud as a wholesale, white-labelled solution that allows channel partners to bring their cloud video service to market quickly. The principle advantage to the end-user customer is that there are no upfront operating costs. Software maintenance is provided as part of the service, minimising support costs.
In just a few years, UC has migrated from a business based on proprietary hardware and protocols, to virtualised solutions running on industry-standard hardware, and finally cloud-based services that require no dedicated hardware at all. Even there, the story is not over. The next step for B2B collaboration is likely to be social enterprise collaboration.
Social collaboration platforms will shift the focus from sharing knowledge through discussion, to also sharing employee actions. Uploading will be a thing of the past, as new platforms will mean that work done online will be immediately available to colleagues.
Also on the timeline is the concept of the ‘Connected Workplace’, where UC is extended to embrace all channels of digital communication including the desktop, mobile and digital signage. An example of a solution embracing the concept was recently announced for the Barco owned X2O platform. This allows users to communicate in real time with X2O channels displayed throughout the enterprise on digital signage, video walls and mobile devices. When combined with iBeacons, user presence can be instantly detected, allowing enterprises to interact easily with employees, partners and on-premises guests.
Connected Workspace applications allow groups to collaborate in shared virtual workspaces, either online or in huddle spaces, through document and desktop sharing, video conversations, and polling of participants. Powered by the X2O platform, the solution strengthens teamwork by letting users easily engage within a common environment.
Using the Connected Desktop application on the X2O platform, users can view and interact with X2O channels directly from their desktop – improving visual communication within the digital enterprise. Specific use cases include consulting company news channels, integrating business information dashboards into workflows and receiving live alerts straight from workstations. The Connected Workforce application lets organisations share real-time content with remote workers across campuses and around the globe. That means a company can maintain up-to-date communication throughout its workforce regardless of location.
Kramer’s VIA Collage – new features including iOS mirroring added at ISE.
With the trend very much in favour of Vaas, the cloud and virtualisation, it might come as a surprise to discover that specialist developers are still in pursuit of developing ‘the ultimate meeting room collaboration’ solution. Last month, we looked at Kramer’s VIA Collage. At ISE, Kramer added some new features to Via Collage. iOS mirroring, for example, uses the integrated Airplay receiver, to let users show content from any iOS device on a main display. VIA Collage allows up to six user screens to be shown on a single main display (and up to 12 on two displays). Users can also view the content on the main display on their personal devices. With any laptop, tablet or smartphone, users can view, edit and comment on documents simultaneously, share files instantly and chat with other meeting participants.
VIA Collage uses proprietary technology to stream full-resolution uninterrupted HD video to the main display. VIA Collage can also use third-party conferencing and office apps, such as Microsoft Office, Skype, GoToMeeting, Lync and WebEx, allowing users to connect remotely to meetings.
Vivitek’s NovoConnect – new features include attendance management, enhanced whiteboard interactivity and a ‘polling’ option for instant participant feedback.
At the entry-level, the new v1.5 upgrade to Vivitek’s NovoConnect adds many new features to expand compatibility and collaboration potential for corporate and education use. NovoConnect enables distributed display and control between PC, Mac and tablet and smartphone devices to create a fully interactive presentation and collaboration environment. Fully wireless communication supports content sharing across multiple devices. The unit is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Chromebook, iOS and Android operating systems.
The new features include attendance management, enhanced whiteboard interactivity and a ‘polling’ option for instant participant feedback. The NovoConnect can be extended with a Quick Launcher USB dongle to eliminate the need to install NovoConnect software beforehand. For €299 ex VAT you get a lot of functionality for the price.
But for those customers where the requirement for decision support is more important than the price – and there are some out there – you need look no further than Oblong Industries’ Mezzanine. This solution is said to “go beyond telepresence to bring the content and data from multiple meeting participants into a multi-surface, large format, shared digital workspace.”
Oblong’s Mezzanine – perhaps the ultimate decision support solution, for those who need it.
Mezzanine can work remotely taking content resources from devices including laptops, tablets and smart phones. The gesture-enabled and spatially-aware properties of the Mezzanine conference room solution provide an immersive experience which Oblong says “is unmatched in the enterprise marketplace.”
No matter where you customer’s requirement sits on the spectrum that runs from NovoConnect to Mezzanine, via the cloud and virtualised hardware, there is a collaborative meeting room or UC solution to suit. Matching the solution to that requirement is an increasingly complex task for the reseller.
Blue Jeans introduces one-click VC
Blue Jeans Network has announced Blue Jeans Relay, a new software solution that integrates customer-premise components and applications with the Blue Jeans cloud. Relay Touch integrates calendar applications, conference room systems and everyday tablet computers to make video conferences easy and automatic. With scheduled meetings displayed on the Relay Touch app, participants can touch to join meetings from any standards-based conference room system, with no need to dial, pair, or enter a meeting ID.
“Most conference room automation solutions require a proprietary touchscreen appliance or only work with equipment from a single vendor,” said Eric Tooley, Product Marketing Manager at Blue Jeans Network. “With Blue Jeans Relay, people simply walk into a conference room, see scheduled meetings on the Relay Touch app, and touch the meeting’s name to join automatically.”
The Relay Touch workflow is powered by Blue Jeans Relay software, the Blue Jeans cloud, and the Blue Jeans Relay Touch app to pair an everyday tablet with most H.323- and SIP-based conference room systems.
Audiovisual solutions provider and Blue Jeans Network partner, Thresher Communications & Productivity realises the additional value and benefits Blue Jeans Relay can provide:
Kyle Prescott, Control Systems Engineer at Thresher Communications & Productivity enthuses: “With Blue Jeans Relay, we can ensure the experience our users are accustomed to, on mobile and desktop applications, is extended to the conference room. It’s a great professional services opportunity for us, and an affordable way for our customers to make conferencing easy and automatic.”
Organisations can deploy Blue Jeans Relay to enhance the usability of room systems that they already own, and also take advantage of a programmable API to customise the user experience with features including:
■ Touch-to-Join Simplicity: Participants simply touch the meeting name to automatically join the meeting, with no need to dial numbers or enter a meeting ID
■ Calendar Integration: Compatible with Microsoft Exchange and Google Calendar, Blue Jeans Relay displays upcoming appointments that include a Blue Jeans meeting
■ Software-Powered Solution: Comprised entirely of software components and cloud services, organisations need only supply a host for a Linux virtual machine and standard Android tablets to integrate conference rooms with their Blue Jeans service
■ Programmable API: With an open API, organisations can customise workflows and add integrations with badge readers, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices, and their own applications.
Blue Jeans Relay software is scheduled for release this month.