We video conference callers are in control.
It’s our time to be that customer who demands personalized service tailored to our specific needs. The market is all lined up in our favor. Consider the following:
- The cloud has removed the need for expensive and complicated on-premises servers.
- The subscription economy means we can pay as we go without a long-term commitment.
- Digital delivery puts a potential endpoint at every desk, phone, and tablet.
- Hardware and software have been separated, allowing us to mix and match services.
- Competition among video vendors is driving costs down.
We’re sitting in the middle of a video as a service market that is continually adding new providers and new ways to access video conferencing. It is our time to thrive as video consumers–and we can bend the industry to our every whim.
Who’s New to the Video as a Service Market
As video becomes more accessible, it gains value as a commodity. We’re only a decade or so removed from a time when video conferencing was the exclusive domain of big businesses with the budgets to fill out their boardrooms with lights, cameras, and IT-department serviced solutions.
Now, you can make a free video call on your phone over a social media app such as Facebook Messenger. As the technology gets easier to consume, it creates more potential consumers. That expanding base of video consumers naturally attracts the interest of potential retailers. And a lot of new video conferencing as a service providers are emerging. Or converting.
They break down into three basic groups:
- The expanding Big 5
- The converters
- The newcomers
That list begins with a group of the world’s most profitable companies, and there’s no surer sign of the value of the video as a service market than the fact it has the attention of those mega-enterprises.
The Expanding Big 5
Every member of the Tech Big 5 has a video conferencing interest. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook have all invested in the industry, introducing new services and refining old ones. The financial strength of these companies gives end users a range of flexible video options.
Amazon: Jeff Bezos’ company entered the market for the first time with the launch of Chime in 2017, and while that initial effort lacked real innovation, it has since improved its service for consumers. Last year, Amazon introduced a pay-as-you-go system that caps subscription costs at $15 a month but can drop down to just $3, depending on user habits. That puts users firmly in control of their video expenditure and places pressure on small video vendors to match the low cost…which few can.
Microsoft: Microsoft, too, has used its financial clout to wage an unfair fight against smaller video vendors, which will only benefit users. In one of the more dramatic shifts in video history, it recently ditched its flagship Skype for Business platform in favor of a Slack-imitating workplace collaboration app called Teams. The new platform is a mix of workflow and communication tools and it puts video conferencing at the heart of an organization’s daily business. It is a powerful blend of communication and Microsoft’s established Office offering that give businesses of all sizes a shot at attaining unified communications cheaply.
Facebook: Facebook also took a shot at workplace collaboration, but its bigger contribution to the end-user is the release of its first major piece of hardware, Facebook Portal. The all-in-one home hub improves on the market-leading Amazon Echo by better integrating voice-activated, touchscreen video conferencing into an internet-searching glorified tablet. The power of its smart camera is troubling to those with existing Facebook privacy concerns, but the device is on the cutting edge of home video options.
Google: The world’s most successful advertising company never seems content with its video offerings. After chopping its famed Hangouts platform in half in 2017, Google has since begun delivering on its promise to incorporate video into workflow tools in a way only Microsoft can replicate. The GSuite isn’t as well established as Office but it lends itself well to remote, mobile workforces and gives consumers a genuine choice.
Apple: FaceTime continues to lead the video charge for Apple, but it too has seen an impressive change of late. Still pitched as a social rather than professional platform, FaceTime now handles group calls and has been overhauled for better performance. After falling behind the VC social media newcomers, FaceTime is back as a relevant video option and now stands as the best way to meet across iOS.
The Big 5 don’t have things all their own way. There are a number of familiar names from related industries converting to visuals in order to take advantage of the growing video as a service market.
All things being equal, video conferencing beats audio-only. So, once video conferencing pioneers like Vidyo demonstrated how next-generation codecs could make video flexible enough to operate reliably on commercial connections, it was only a matter of time before audio was running in second place. In response, a few leading audio enterprises have bought into the video market. Players from related fields have also made the jump, giving consumers a selection of new platforms that come with specialized histories and offerings.
In recent years we’ve seen the following conversions:
- Audio pioneer Plantronics took over former video technology company Polycom to create Poly.
- Dolby has branched out into video hardware and software for small meetings.
- Yamaha has developed a range of video conferencing headsets, cameras, speakers, and its own all-in-one package.
- Lenovo has produced a range of touchscreen-powered video control hubs that make video calling on platforms such as Skype easier.
- HP has followed Lenovo’s lead and designed a conference room control panel of its own.
- Audio and headset maker Jabra has expanded its offerings to include the 180o 4K plug-and-play PanaCast video conferencing camera.
Add in the fact that video revolutionary Slack has started teaming up with fellow startups like Atlassian, and you’ve got an expanding range of options for consumers. In addition, there are a group of newcomers pushing through that will further diversify the market, resulting in cheaper prices, new features, and better deals for users.
We’ve also seen the rise of a range of new video conferencing entrants. Some of these players have already introduced real innovation, including the WebRTC, browser-based video calling of Appear.In and Lifesize Go. Browser-based calling offers a potentially anonymous, account-free alternative to subscription services for an age that may soon grow weary of handing their personal details over every time they make a video call using a new platform.
Some of these innovations are going to be lost into niche markets as the industry consolidates over the coming years, but those niches may be just what you, the consumer, are after.
Our message is this: there have never been more options available to us as consumers, or more suitors out for our monthly spend, so don’t stop making demands until you find the perfect solution.