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Wainhouse Research's looks back at their 2016 visual collaboration industry predictions

December 14, 2016 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Alan D. Greenberg / Wainhouse Research

Feliz Ano Nuevo! Seasons Greetings! Happy Holidays, whatever you may celebrate. Another year, and as everyone is rushing to enter 2017, here's our recap of how we did for 2016. In case your math is off: we nailed FIVE, were halfway right on FIVE, and missed THREE. In baseball that's a .385 batting average!

Andy Nilssen - Personal & Web Collaboration

Andy_Nilssen.jpg2016 Prediction: According to WR's 2H 2015 WebMetrics survey, 21% of panelists use Skype for Business (or Lync) for their day-to-day web conferencing solution vs. 34% who use WebEx. With the momentum behind it, however, I predict SfB will overtake WebEx as the leading provider of web conferencing as shown by WebMetrics respondents by the end of 2016.

Missed it but who the heck knows the future? Preliminary results from the 2H16 WebMetrics survey show that 27% use WebEx (vs 34% in 2015) and 22% use SfB (vs 21%) ... so, even with 27%, WebEx maintains its #1 web conferencing provider slot, and clearly was not overtaken by SfB. That said, a shift away from WebEx occurred in our survey base. Where did the WebEx users go? It appears not to be to any one place ... and you'll need to wait for the next WebMetrics study to be published to see where. But clearly the WebEx users in our survey did not shift to SfB.

2016 Prediction: All is not rosy for Microsoft however. The company does not have an offering that directly addresses the "email replacement" buzz created by Slack, HipChat, Cisco Spark and other Persistent Collaboration Spaces (PCS) offerings - and yes, we are aware of Groups for Office 365. Thus Microsoft will acquire a true, designed from-the-ground-up PCS offering in 2016 (there are many to choose from).

Halfway got it. I nailed that Microsoft needed a true, designed-from-the-ground-up PCS offering: Microsoft Teams, introduced by Redmond in November 2016, answered the call. But Microsoft Teams was not the result of any direct acquisition. Guess I underestimated the ability for Microsoft to quickly develop software - who knew?

Alan D. Greenberg - Collaborative Educational Technologies & e-Learning

Alan_greenberg.jpg2016 Prediction: At least one new category of products or use cases are going to begin to gain greater visibility in educational technology circles. One of them could be Learning Relationship Managers (LRMs), a new category of platform that combines the elements of e-portfolios, mentoring, analytics, learning communities, coaching and communications hubs, and more. The rationale for this new category is that - with a few exceptions - most Learning Management Systems have failed to provide a holistic ability to create a context for learner-centricity - and then measure outcomes. I'll explain this one throughout the course of the year but it's definitely the coming thing. Another might be in the category of use cases: I believe we will begin to see products like Zoom, Fuze by ThinkingPhones, Blue Jeans Network, Shindig and others start to be used for more real-time educational events - particularly in K-12 markets - outside of the classroom.

Nailed it (on both counts)! Motivis announced its new SFDC-grounded, LMS-enabled LRM at Educause 2016, Salesforce itself and the University of Texas in October 2016 announced a partnership to make college courses "more like Netflix," and we wrote about this emerging category in April (so it must be legit now, right)? I'm also pleased to report that I constantly hear about educators leveraging Zoom, Fuze, Blue Jeans Network, Shindig and others outside of the classroom. Toss in Sonic Foundry and Panopto and you start to see a pattern: more pervasive video and other content for wild and woolly use cases, like live streaming football games and graduation ceremonies.

2016 Prediction: The nascent category of ideation software (see Nureva, Bluescape, Stormboard, etc.) will begin to grow but only after somebody comes up with a better term than what is being used today: ideation. This category attempts to digitize a process with which everyone is familiar: sticky notes, flipcharts, war rooms, consultant project rooms. Heady stuff that goes above and beyond what we all know from whiteboarding and team workspaces - which means it just might fight the same battle collaboration has fought in becoming better understood. Let's see: head software? Group brainstorming software (GBS!) Give me some ideas here, folks!

Halfway got it. So, ok, ideation seems to be the defining term, we're stuck with that. But besides these players, along with Oblong, Prysm, who have been into this stuff for a while, new entrants have come along. Google introduced the Jamboard, which contains some similar ideation elements just this past fall. And I know of at least one "big iron" player with something in the works. Death to the whiteboard, long live the ideation-board!

Steve Vonder Haar - Streaming and Web Casting

Steve_Vonder_Haar.jpg2016 Prediction: More Multicast Alternatives Emerge: Enterprises relying on multicast networking capabilities in the past year have seen viable options dwindle. Microsoft's decision to eliminate support for multicast distribution from the new iteration of its Windows Media server has left many enterprises casting about for viable multicasting options. VBrick has tried to bridge the gap by integrating multicast capabilities from the Adobe Flash platform into its solution. Meanwhile, Ramp introduced a browser plug-in capable of handling multicast video distribution. Some users, however, are leery of the solution because of its use of Java. In the year ahead, expect platform vendors to roll out additional software solutions that aspire to address the multicast networking challenge in a more elegant manner.

Nailed it! This prognostication has come to pass. Ramp, for instance, has rolled out a version of its multicast solution that operates as an application on a Windows desktop. That moves the company beyond its previous Java-based approach that had prompted security concerns within some enterprises. Likewise, VBrick now says that its Distributed Media Engine network cache appliance can convert unicast streams into those suitable for distribution via multicast.

2016 Prediction: Product Disaggregation Takes Root: Look for more streaming platform vendors to identify specific feature sub-sets that can be packaged and sold as stand-alone solutions. Some streaming technology developers, such as Brightcove and Haivision, already embrace the idea of selling specific platform features as stand-alone products. For 2016, the push for this type making products out of existing platform features will merely accelerate.

Halfway got it! Consider this glimpse into the crystal ball as "somewhat realized" as networking specific solutions from the likes of Kollective, Hive and Ramp increasingly are deployed in conjunction with content creation and video content management platforms developed by other vendors. Other points in the streaming ecosystem, however, have seen fewer gains in interoperability than my prediction may have suggested. Lots of folks still are talking about this approach to platform development, but true interoperability still appears to be more of a vendor aspiration than market reality.

2016 Prediction: Redmond Rolls In: Long lurking in the background of the enterprise streaming segment with its hosted Azure platform, Microsoft in 2016 will finally be poised to establish a leadership role in promoting and evangelizing the adoption of streaming in the enterprise. Azure - already providing the technology infrastructure for Microsoft streaming initiatives such as the Office 365 video portal and Skype for Business Broadcast - will take a higher profile role in providing streaming platforms directly to enterprise users. Azure's role in hosting and distributing streaming solutions and features developed by other vendors also will be expanded. With Microsoft still dabbling around the edges of the streaming market for now, expect its enterprise streaming prominence to become more pronounced in the second half of 2016.

Nailed it! Consider this prediction as 110% realized as Microsoft launched its first enterprise online video initiative with the summer 2016 introduction of its hosted Microsoft Stream platform. But not only did Microsoft step up to the streaming plate during the past year, but the market also witnessed new commitment from IBM when it acquired hosted streaming solutions provider Ustream in January. Together, the investments from Microsoft and IBM signal significant interest in the market by industry heavyweights that ultimately may encourage even more industry-leading technology developers to plant their flags in the streaming platform business.

Ira M. Weinstein & Saar Litman - Video Conferencing and Audio / Visual

Ira_weinstein.jpg2016 Prediction: A New AV Control Mentality - The "mindset" around enterprise meeting room control solutions will start to shift toward all-IP, IT-friendly, lower-cost solutions. This will be driven largely by global organizations seeking to simplify and scale meeting room control and monitoring, and will be embraced (to some degree) by both legacy vendors and perhaps a few new entrants to the space.

Saar_Litman.jpgNailed it! The year 2016 was clearly a time for simplification of the AV meeting room. Enterprise after enterprise told us the same basic story - the focus moving forward is on simpler, standardized meeting rooms with either no control system or a pre-programmed touch panel user interface. To be clear, this does not mean that custom programmed control systems have (or ever will) go the way of the Dodo. Instead, what we heard is that standard and simple is the norm, while custom and complex are the "as needed only" exception.

The Year of "ME" - Despite years of hype around mobile video conferencing, the reality is that the value of mobile devices in the AV and VC space has been relatively limited. In 2016, we'll see more solutions that allow (or even depend on) users to authenticate and identify themselves as they enter the meeting room. These solutions will leverage the identified person's schedule, contact lists, and workflow preferences to provide a custom, personalized meeting experience. So, that meeting room around the corner will become "MY" meeting room once I authenticate.

Halfway got it. While not yet found in the typical conference room, most of the major vendors are working on in-room identification and authentication solutions. But to be clear - the key here is not just security. This is all about workflow. Quickly and easily identifying the user, and to the extent possible personalizing the experience within the room. So why is this taking so long? Quite simply, this is not a quick feature you can enable in a device and call it done. The value here comes from an end-to-end experience that leverages the user's preferences, contacts, and information. Unfortunately, that takes time. But stay tuned - we expect news in this area to hit the wires as early as Q1 2017.

2016 Prediction: At Least One VC Ankle-Biter Will Disappear - During 2016, at least one existing group video conferencing vendor will leave the market - either by choosing to drop their VC product line, or as a result of being acquired by a larger player with an existing portfolio of products.

Halfway got it - A few weeks ago, WR learned that the CEO, and apparently, several others from one small video system vendor have flown the coop. This news is so fresh that the company's website has yet to be updated. The ex-CEO's LinkedIn page does, however, show that he has moved on. So we almost nailed this one, but by only a few weeks, and it's not even public yet! Rest assured - we'll offer more details as things become official.

Andrew W. Davis - Video Conferencing

Andew_Davis.jpg2016 Prediction: The bottom will fall out of the VCaaS market as differentiation between services disappears and as per user per month (PUPM) pricing hitting new low points. This will drive channel strategies towards direct selling as a survival requirement

Nailed it. The bottom has pretty much fallen out. Some might say it is because feature parity has been reached by many services - so that price is the remaining competitive weapon. Others might say that Zoom by itself has poisoned the well. In any case, VCaaS vendors have innovated by a) lowering prices and b) introducing feature-limited services with reduced pricing or in some cases free pricing. Channel strategies are evolving from two perspectives. The VCaaS guys themselves are moving to "modified" direct sales - in some cases by offering only some of their services (generally the lower end price points) direct via online sites, in other cases by identifying only certain customer segments that they will address via direct sales people (EDU, GOV for example). From the channel partner perspective, things are more complicated. Many of the AV integrators offer both third-party VCaaS services as well as VCaaS hosted by themselves, in a DIY fashion. The DIY approach offers higher margins of course, but also carries lots of obvious liabilities.

2016 Prediction: The core video conferencing infrastructure market (MCUs, gateways, gatekeepers, NAT/firewall traversal) will decline by 30% in 2016 as i) customers delay purchase decisions while they evaluate cloud options and ii) infrastructure products themselves drop in price as they transition to software running on virtual servers.

Missed it but who the heck knows the future? Looks like the transition started, as predicted, but by the middle of the year the turnaround began. It's indeed been a rocky road, but the industry is finally back to where it was a year ago with Cisco making a strong comeback in Q3-16. Reasons for all this are uncertain, but likely include elements of a) installed CPE equipment reaching the end of life; b) service providers launching VCaaS services and needing equipment to do so; c) Acano is now fully integrated into the Cisco sales process; d) customers considering hybrid-cloud strategies rather than pure-cloud implementations; e) the Chicago Cubs finally winning a world series.


Bill Haskins - Unified Communications

Bill_Haskins.jpg2016 Prediction: Microsoft and Cisco have been engaged in a longstanding war for the top UC vendor position. In 2015, Microsoft retained its number one spot based on WR End User UC survey data - with twice as many users reporting the use of Skype for Business over Cisco's Jabber client (43% MS vs 21% Cisco). However, when we asked IT Decision Makers what UC Platform they have deployed in a production environment, Cisco edged MS out for the first time (48% Cisco vs 46% MS). We think the momentum is currently in Cisco's favor for a number of reasons, including their expanded Spark Collaboration Cloud, and market questions and potential delays as enterprises work to understand the new Office 365 E5 offering and its place in their SfB strategy. If this momentum holds true, we'd expect to see almost a dead heat at the desktop in 2016, with end users reporting Jabber as their primary UC client within 5-10 percentage points of Skype for Business.

Missed it but who the heck knows the future? Microsoft and Cisco continue their heated battle for UC dominance. Contrary to our IT deployment observations, however, 2016's UC end user survey showed literally no change in relative position between these juggernauts - almost twice as many end users noted they use Skype for Business vs. Cisco Jabber in both 2015 and 2016 surveys. When you add "consumer Skype," MS is favored three to one. A few related observations: we believe a number of users are confused about the actual Skype client they are using - we've had several comment "oh, I use Skype," only to find out they are actually using Skype for Business once you ask a few more questions. On the Cisco side, we think it's entirely possible (probable?) that the introduction of Spark has stalled the growth of Jabber users. Of course, this would mean there are more Cisco UC users than our survey uncovered - they are just interacting with Spark instead of Jabber.

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