Looking at the history of video collaboration there are a few identifiable transition points.  The introduction of audio and video delivery over IP networks created opportunities for widespread affordable deployments and the video conferencing market began to expand.  The scale of deployments, however, was in general neither large nor pervasive.  In 2006/2007 new offerings (like the CTS 3000 from Cisco’s TelePresence team) introduced highly reliable, full HD (1080p), full motion (30fps) experiences with a level of simplicity making it operable by any user irrespective of technical knowledge.  As Full HD became available across the breadth of video conferencing platforms, the whole market rapidly doubled over the following two to three years.  This created another market pillar in collaboration.

Push the clock forward 6 or so years to today…

The distinction between video conferencing, unified communications and web conferencing is now very blurred:

  • The user community has matured.  They are no longer satisfied with connecting over audio, video or content.  They want to achieve the startup experience of small, tightly connected teams across a geographically dispersed workforce.  This means leveraging all of the above features where and when needed, in a simple and intuitive way.
  • IM, presence, audio, video and content collaboration are becoming features across a breadth of different platforms.  They can no longer be considered disparate services.
  • The user base does not distinguish between dialing from their personal device and dialing from a hard endpoint.  Directories, favorites, personal content, etc. should all be available irrespective of the current endpoint being used.  This includes extension mobility (supporting hot desking and hoteling), single number reach, single sign-on and other services that are familiar in the voice world and are now expected for video.

In addition, there are rapidly developing innovations that present huge opportunities for new experiences and scaling deployments:

  • Multi-stream SVC, WebRTC, and H.265 are all significant innovations that present solutions for cost-effective pervasive deployments without compromise on quality.
  • Intelligent Proximity providing seamless integration between personal devices and endpoints – enabling flexible experiences leveraging all visual real-estate, personalization and improved connectivity
  • Cloud / on-prem / hybrid deployment models deliver deployment choice and flexibility to scale to the right size as needed, and enabling new market segments to join the collaboration world.

These are high value innovations, but they create significant concerns for buyers that impact market growth including:

  • If I make an investment decision will it be right for the future?
  • What about the investment decisions I have already made?  Are they about to become redundant?  Were these a mistake?
  • Do I have to give up on new innovations and capabilities to ensure I can interoperate?
  • I cannot make wholesale upgrades to my installed platform to get to new innovations – must I wait for the next 3-5 year investment cycle for a forklift upgrade?
  • How do I get to the next generation of collaboration innovations from where I am?  What is my migration roadmap?

These questions are the key to distinguishing between vendors.  The right vendor should be able to deliver:

  • Innovation – Across an optimized portfolio, one size does not fit everyone or everywhere
  • Consumption and deployment flexibility – both from a technology perspective (e.g. cloud and on-prem) and from a commercial perspective
  • Investment protection – no forklift upgrades should be required to deliver value
  • Scalable interoperability – no least common denominator effect
  • User simplicity – because adoption = utilization = ROI
  • Connectivity without boundaries – B2B, B2C, across firewalls and across technology generations

…and, most importantly

  • A solution architecture and road map that is built for change supporting targeted incremental migration both now and for the future

The right strategy and architecture provides the balance between innovation and true interoperability (True Interop = 3rd Party + Legacy + Future) – as noted in my previous blog.

The measure of this can only be determined with a clearly defined goal for collaboration.  The task for the buyer is to be clear on their collaboration strategy.  With this in hand and leveraging the above criteria, vendors can in general be fairly straightforwardly distinguished for their strengths and weaknesses both now and for the future.

From a Cisco perspective our product strategy is committed to driving innovation both in hardware and software solutions that address these key customer concerns.