Unified communication’s giants step into the ring with mega acquisitions
BY BENNIE LANGENHOVEN, MANAGING EXECUTIVE, TELLUMAT COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS*
After a somewhat drawn-out rise in initial adoption, video is used with increasing frequency in the enterprise today.
The market now seems to have hit a tipping point, with giant unified communications (UC) vendors getting in on the action. Mass adoption is likely to follow soon, along with significant changes in the ways we do business, marketing and communicate.
The most significant recent events in the enterprise video timeline are two major acquisitions: Cisco, with its acquisition of Tandberg ($3.3 billion), and Avaya, with its buyout of RADVISION ($250 million), have joined Skype, Polycom and ShoreTel as significant players in this market. At the same time, they have added major excitement and competition to this industry.
Their timing is spot-on. Research offers different views on how big enterprise video is going to get, but the consensus is “pretty big”.
• Infonetics forecasts that the global market will reach $5 billion by 2015.
• Gartner, for the same period, is forecasting $8.6 billion.
• Wainhouse Research predicts 20% or greater growth for the foreseeable future.
It is clear that all the elements are in place for a battle royale to deliver video to the enterprise – either as a desktop application as well as video conferencing facilities in boardrooms.
The old way and the new
So how far has video come in the enterprise, and where is it at currently?
Traditionally, videoconferencing was the preserve of large national or multinational companies. Substituting frequent travel, conference took place between two groups in two fixed locales equipped with screens, cameras, microphones and – for the time – serious bandwidth.
Both the expense of such installations (hardware, connectivity and network configuration) and the point-to-point nature of early video applications required participants to be present to participate.
This changed with the arrival of point-to-multipoint applications. Meeting rooms still exist, but it is possible for extra participants to dial in without special equipment other than their PC, webcam and broadband link.
Consumer-grade apps like Skype and Apple’s Facetime are partly to thank for this turn of events, serving to acquaint people with video. This is set to continue as video proves to be a formidable medium through which to communicate in any number of enterprise scenarios (more about this further down).
It is against this backdrop that the major UC vendors are integrating desktop-based peer-to-peer video and multi-party videoconferencing into their platforms.
Desktop video conferencing
The first order of business for these vendors will be to allow single users the ability to log in to point-to-multipoint videoconferences from their desktops.
With the rich application arsenals they lay claim to, they are likely to encapsulate video within compelling application environments featuring document sharing, instant messaging, presence and the like.
YouTube in the enterprise
Another, arguably even more exciting range of video applications is also emerging in the enterprise – namely hosted video communication.
Many enterprises already have YouTube accounts allowing them to host proprietary videos, but the range of uses, led by viral videos, is proliferating. Product demos, case studies and sales, marketing and training material are all finding enthusiastic followings.
As with the early years of videoconferencing, desktop and hosted video is likely to encounter continued resistance, but over time it can grow from augmenting face-to-face interactions to more standalone enterprise aids, once the initial discomfort is overcome.
As noted in a QUMU product white paper: “For many, the idea of writing a ten-page memo is horrifying when they could create a faster, better result with a webcam and sharing of desktop presentations, spreadsheets, or Web-based information.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
* Tellumat is the South African distributor of ShoreTel systems.