30 BUSINESS FEATURE: UNIFIED COMMS AND COLLABORATION
Key Points Unified communications offers huge potential for vendors, as the market for video functionality remains largely untapped
A period of transition for this technology area has made companies seek out partnerships within the industry The role of the integrator is changing, but this offers opportunities to those who are willing to adapt
A growing number of uniﬁed communications and collaboration companies are bridging across the UCC marketplace through partnerships. But is it down to a shift in the hardware-software balance of power, or a new approach to the pursuit of excellence, asks Duncan Proctor?
ost up-to-date ﬁgures show that an extremely low percentage of meeting rooms are currently equipped with video functionality, just 4% according to an IMCCA (Interactive Multimedia and Collaborative Communications Alliance) panel at InfoComm 2017. Due not only to the number of companies in this space, but also the wide-ranging functionality of products on offer, UCC is currently one of the most rapidly developing areas of AV, with the majority of the potential market still untapped. As a response to growing levels of competition, manufacturers are increasingly looking at partnerships. This year both Crestron and Polycom have produced hardware that is compatible with Zoom, a web conferencing service and relatively new to the AV space. Oblong has introduced integrations with the Microsoft ecosystem including calendar and video integration with Microsoft Exchange and Skype for Business. This is designed to make it simpler to schedule and start Mezzanine meetings using familiar daily enterprise tools. Also, Lifesize has added integration with Slack and HipChat to existing agreements with Skype for Business and IBM Sametime.
Changing landscape But what is behind this drive to partner?
“The collaboration landscape is changing, and a one-size-ﬁts-all approach is no longer adequate,” observes Sudeep Trivedi, head of partnerships for Logitech Video Collaboration. “Previously a number of videoconferencing vendors have operated in a bit of a walled garden, but the customer demand for ﬂexibility and interoperability has forced them to bring down their walls, with the number of recent partnership announcements reﬂecting this.”
‘Software needs highperformance devices/ hardware to deliver its magic’ Mary Ann de Lares Norris, Oblong
“The drive to partner comes from a drive for excellence,” says Mary Ann de Lares Norris, VP EMEA of Oblong Industries, before adding: “To deliver an engaging workplace, companies need to invest in disruptive, next-generation systems that are quite often a combination of best-in-class.” Tim Stone, VP of EMEA marketing at Polycom, states: “Strong partnerships and open standards have always been the foundation of the value we bring to our customers. Our partnerships with
Zoom and Microsoft extend the beneﬁts of our solutions to a greater customer base. While our mutual customers with Zoom can now enjoy a great, ﬂexible video experience, our solutions are also helping the Skype for Business users to seamlessly connect to any other standards-based video system without having to leave the familiar Microsoft environment. This is how we ensure we deliver the best user experience and promote ease of use of our technology.” For Lifesize, it’s about ﬁtting in with the customers’ workﬂow. “At Lifesize, we are focused on delivering an unmatched communication and collaboration experience that is very easy to use,” comments Michael Helmbrecht, chief product and operations officer, Lifesize. “Enabling customers to have a workﬂow that lets them integrate Lifesize with their other communication and collaboration tools makes it easier for users and more beneﬁcial.”
Shift of emphasis What has also become apparent in recent years is a shifting of emphasis from hardware solutions to software, with the emergence of services like Zoom and Skype for Business. Where does this put traditional AV conferencing vendors? And are they still able to inﬂuence the direction of the technology? “It’s an interesting time within our industry,” says Trivedi. “The steep decline in the price-to-
AV integration in a networked world