Video is hard. Despite decades of new and improved videoconferencing suites, interoperability groups, and soft clients on tablets and PCs, video for small to medium-sized businesses continues to be an uphill battle. Still, every year there is yet another "breakthrough" to (allegedly) make video more accessible with a booming market just around the corner. And so it remains.
In the latest push, Polycom is trumpeting research it sponsored, saying video conferencing is expected to be a preferred business communication tool in 2016. Survey data collected by Redshift Research from among 1,205 business decision makers in 12 countries says 76 percent of respondents use video solutions at work today, with 56 percent of those participating in at least one video call a week.
Video conferencing, according to the “Global View: Business Video Conferencing Usage and Trends” survey, is an essential tool enabling better collaboration between globally dispersed colleagues, greater clarity of topics being discussed and more efficient meetings.
However, respondents ranked video conferencing third among their most preferred communications tool today, with email number one at 89 percent, followed by voice/conference calls at 64 percent. Video came ranked at 47 percent today among participants with an expected move to 51 percent in three years, with email dropping to 51 percent and voice/conference calls slipping to 37 percent.
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But the data should also cause concern to Polycom, since laptops and desktops proved to be the most popular device for business video conferencing, with 75 percent of respondents citing usage. Even three years from now, 72 percent of people expect to use PCs – this does not auger well for a company that has continued to push video "media phones" without a lot of uptake.
Another factor to consider, in my view, is the fact people have stuck with poor-quality audio conferencing solutions for years while better HD voice-based and video solutions have been available. BT has started a campaign to promote a Dolby spatial audio conferencing service and believes it can charge a premium for it over existing narrowband services.
Can BT and Polycom both be right? BT executives have also said they see a big market for video calling, but there are plenty of challenges to building a reliable video network. And both companies (and their respective research citations) agree audio quality matters. Meanwhile, video cloud "bridge" providers such as Blue Jeans Network and Vidtel continue to generate buzz and attract money as they slash through the complexity of traditional video conference solutions.
I'm not sure there is a right answer. Video conferencing is certainly getting easier and less expensive, but the reluctance of businesses to embrace better audio conferencing solutions that are easier and cost less doesn't bode well for a significant uptick in video usage.
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