Plug and Play Video Conferencing Is Changing the Hardware Market

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Plug and play video conferencing often uses USB connections.

Video conferencing is being deconstructed. Piece by piece, the elements of the once dominant on-premises video conferencing system are being pulled apart and sold separately, with the actual video conferencing service often being offered through the cloud.

The reason is simple. Video conferencing is now ubiquitous and complicated video room systems aren’t suited to all of the technology’s new uses.

Employees in the modern office no longer need to gather around a big table in the main conference room to make a video call. Instead, we meet in small huddle rooms for quick meetings, we make connections through our smartphones, and we access video from our desktops as easily as we once made audio-only calls–in fact, PC-based calling is so popular that landline phones are disappearing from desktops.

This trend isn’t lost on the companies that have traditionally provided our video conferencing hardware. In feeding the demand for mobile, personal video hardware that doesn’t require the services of an IT team to install, run, and update, they’ve also adopted a plug-and-play video conferencing model in order to sell us the component webcam, microphone, and speaker parts as choose-your-own accessories.

Familiar Names in New Markets

The trend toward plug-and-play video conferencing is born out in the recent activities of three established video players.

The first is Logitech, the video conferencing peripherals manufacturer that dominates the webcam market. The Swiss company was among the first to take advantage of the banishment of video conferencing codecs from the office into the cloud. By adopting a largely agnostic approach to video calling, it has been able to sell its hardware to users regardless of their VC platform preferences. The resulting offerings range from affordable webcams right up to entire group video conferencing room systems for high-end corporate communication.

The modern video experience is a cloud-based video platform harnessed by a patchwork of user-selected peripherals.

Users can pull together the whole assemble-it-yourself system with a recently launched central control hub, a Logitech touchscreen called Tap (although Tap is frequently purchased as part of an out-of-the-box system, preloaded with Zoom Rooms, Microsoft Teams Rooms, or another VC provider). It’s a model that the rest of the video market has turned into a trend defining the modern video experience: a cloud-based video platform harnessed by a patchwork of user-selected peripherals. This new reality has forced another trend-follower–and former Logitech partner–to reevaluate their entire business model.

From the Conference Room to the Cloud

Lifesize has made a video conferencing shift as daring as Microsoft’s well-publicized move to ditch the Skype for Business brand–itself a concession to the rise of casual video collaboration.

About five years ago, former on-premises hardware specialist Lifesize completely changed its business model to become a cloud-based, SaaS video supplier. The move resulted in a 340% increase in registered users as the company broke down its offerings into individual hardware pieces supporting cloud video.

The driving force behind the company’s move was laid out by CEO Craig Malloy:

“Traditional, on-premises video conferencing is dying, as today’s organizations look for a more practical solution for connecting and engaging their workforce.”

Those words could just as easily been used to describe our final video conferencing shape-changer, Poly (AKA Polycom).

Polycom Sale Proves the Value of Video

Less than a year ago, long-time audio pioneer Plantronics spent around $2 billion to acquire long-time video pioneer Polycom. Polycom made its name by building high-end in-room video solutions, but the sale gives Plantronics a chance to pair the company’s visual expertise with its own audio brand to create practical, flexible, and user-friendly video conferencing packages.

The moves of Logitech, Poly and Lifesize demonstrate the new thirst for plug-and-play simplicity in the video conferencing market.

The rapid rate of video conferencing adoption means there is less demand for audio-only services, so the sale helps Plantronics stay relevant in the office environment. For Polycom, the move is something of a lifesaver. Its sale was a two-step process that netted the venture capital firm in the middle little return on its investment, so weak was the market for big on-premises video communications technology. Now, the joint company is newly rebranded as Poly.

Seen together, the moves of Logitech, Poly and Lifesize demonstrate the new thirst for plug-and-play simplicity in the video conferencing market. It also reflects a broader move toward hassle-free cloud services across the business world.

Plug-and-Play Video Conferencing and the Move to the Cloud

It has been predicted that 50% of all information technology services will be operated from the cloud by 2020. The global market for such SaaS sales reached $186 billion in 2018, a massive 21% jump from the $153 billion realized in 2017.

That market is being led by Amazon’s Web Services brand and covers software, management, video, security, business process, and infrastructure. Essentially, every digital element of the modern office is being sent to the cloud.

Cloud computing removes the need for storage, maintenance, and IT support for complex and data-heavy operations.

As with the reasons behind the shift to plug and play video, the main driver is ease of operation by the end user. Cloud computing removes the need for storage, maintenance, and IT support for complex and data-heavy operations. Even small businesses can embrace the latest technological advances by paying a monthly subscription that includes all the standards.

If you’re a small business setting up a video conferencing network today, all your worries have disappeared into the cloud. You don’t need an entire IT department to implement and maintain your video connections. You don’t need to pay for expensive on-site data storage. You don’t even have to worry about updating your software.

As Logitech, Poly, and Lifesize can attest, video is now a very user-friendly form of communication. All you have to do is sign up for a cloud-based video conferencing platform–for as little as $5 a month per user–and start picking out the plug-and-play video conferencing peripherals that suit your business.

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