This groundbreaking capability, however, is available already from video exchanges like Vidtel Inc., Glowpoint Inc. and Blue Jeans Network that use the cloud to federate proprietary and consumer video. For example, Vidtel hosts video conferencing meeting rooms in the cloud where people dial in from almost any device, or Skype or Google Talk. Similarly, Glowpoint's cloud service, OpenVideo, is endpoint- and network-agnostic, and comes with encryption. It works with services including Google Talk and Microsoft Lync and, as a result, Skype. Blue Jeans Network does much the same with its online video conferencing product, which works with a number of vendors' systems as well as mobile and Web-based video services.
The emphasis on consumer services may spark fear among video conferencing resellers. After all, why should your clients continue to buy business-grade systems when they can just use Skype on their laptops or mobile devices? Simply, it's because consumer-grade free offers suffer from latency, jitter and lack of security. However, a video exchange or a software add-on like Polycom's CloudAXIS can ensure quality and safety when using these consumer services.
By enabling more users to engage in video conferencing — even some on free services — with each other, the service increases in value and demand. Economists call it "the network effect." Two prime examples are the Internet and the good ol' PSTN. Imagine video conferencing becoming as common as a phone call. Such adoption presents partners with ways to make money that were not possible with closed, single-vendor platforms.
"We believe we can actually help [the Big Three] grow their market," said Mariette Johnson Wharton, vice president of marketing for Vidtel. Here's why: Legacy conferencing units cost around $50,000; then there's typically a 10 percent maintenance fee, plus the addition of the salary of the person overseeing the entire platform. That all can total about $100,000 per year. But when businesses opt for cloud video conferencing that costs around $150 per month, they can afford to buy more video phones.
"We can expand their endpoint market ... especially with companies that can't afford infrastructure," Johnson Wharton said, explaining that channel partners for Polycom, Cisco and LifeSize can then target SMBs, a sector they, historically, have not served.
Analyst Kerravala agreed. "Cloud enables more video to more endpoints faster and easier than ever before," he said. "That will create a 'rising tide' that will lift all of the vendors. Ultimately Polycom, Cisco and Avaya may lose some share to smaller vendors, but the overall pie will be much bigger, allowing everyone to grow."