Long before Zoom became a verb, people were Facetiming friends and family. There is a whole generation of people who think video calling is standard.
In 2013, I was working for Vidtel providing me a view into the video conferencing space SEVEN years ago. Bluejeans Networks was the big dog back then, sucking up press and $175 Million in investment. Verizon acquired Bluejeans for almost $500M – and has proceeded to push it out through their various business channels including VZW. This is a direct response to the rise of Zoom.
Today, Zoom has “zoomed” right by PGi, Webex and Bluejeans. The next top contender is actually Microsoft Teams, whose 75 million daily active users are able to phone, video, chat and conference on their laptop or cellphone on one app – something Google was late in doing and Cisco made too clunky.
Should companies have seen the rise of video?
In 2015, thinkingphones acquired a video conferencing provider called Fuzebox and re-branded as Fuze. Fuze has raised $200M and sells to the enterprise space (250 employees and up).
That same year, Siris Capital bought PGi for almost $1 Billion dollars. Video conferencing certainly had the capital markets’ attention in 2015!
A few things did help push video calling: wi-fi, broadband, devices with built-in webcams and ease of use. Oh and the pandemic. In a rush to establish business continuity in the face of work from home, video conferencing leaped to the forefront. Zoom was easy and free for the attendee.
Broadband, wi-fi and hardware are better in 2020 than they were in 2015 – and much better than in 2013. Cameras are 1080p, 10+ megapixel and cheap! Nice podcasting microphones are under $200. A Cisco telepresence system was a six-figure purchase. Now Logitech, Lifesize, Jabra and the rest are shrinking the budget on conference room gear while improving the experience with better speakers, microphones and cameras. They even add AI to the experience! All of the enhancements have made huddle rooms and at-home video conferencing possible, easy and frequent in 2020.
The cloud communications folks should have been talking about their video conferencing abilities before the pandemic, but hindsight is 20/20. Often an upstart takes off to disrupt a sector and that is what Zoom has done. Video chatting was enabled on browsers with WebRTC at least as early as 2013. It took a pandemic for people to start using it widely. (I am still uncertain if that is a good thing or not.)
More thoughts on this later.