Hamstrung by tight IT budgets and global workers using mismatched endpoints, businesses are demanding flexible video collaboration that runs on mobile devices, desktops, laptops, TVs and room-based systems. But that's not all — they want platforms of all kinds to talk to one another — Skype to Polycom, Facebook to Cisco, Google Talk to LifeSize, for instance. There's little patience left for walled-garden conferencing.
Market leaders Cisco Systems Inc., Polycom Inc. and LifeSize Communications Inc. are wrapping their heads around these shifts as are some of their smaller competitors such as Avaya Inc. (following its purchase of Radvision in summer 2012) and Vidyo Inc., which was formed in 2005 with the idea of making video conferencing accessible to the mainstream. Meanwhile, their foot-dragging opened up an opportunity for video conferencing exchanges to enable proprietary and open platforms to talk to one another.
This so-called federation of video conferencing platforms, including freemium versions like Skype and Google Talk, may seem to pull the rug out from under video conferencing systems sales, but it actually could be what's needed to finally take business video conferencing mainstream, fueling sales of systems of all types.
Rest assured, traditional video conferencing hardware is "not going away," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst of ZK Research. "But, to offer a complete solution, you need to be able to deliver video any way the customer wants."
With that in mind, the legacy hardware vendors have opened their technologies to work with some other business-to-business platforms and on some mobile devices. Avaya, as one example, debuted in December 2012 a gateway that works with Cisco, LifeSize, Polycom and Tandberg systems, and also includes plug-ins that take Aura Conferencing and Flare Experience video collaboration to Android and iOS devices. Polycom has taken interoperability even further with its October announcement of CloudAXIS, a software extension of the Polycom RealPresence Platform designed for private and public cloud deployments — available in both enterprise and partner/service provider editions – that enables enterprise-grade video collaboration to any business or consumer platform like Skype.