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Two EC Announcements and the Rise of “Service-attached” Video

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Two EC Announcements and the Rise of “Service-attached” Video
    

By: -
21 Mar 2018
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Having had some time to reflect after returning from the hallowed halls of the Gaylord Palms post Enterprise Connect, two announcements struck me as significant proof-points for the transition of video conferencing from traditional “stand-alone” equipment to a market driven by cloud-based services.

Dolby Voice Room

Dolby made its move from audio to video conferencing with its announcement of the Dolby Voice Room.  The new video device – which is used along with a Dolby Conference Phone – packages a 4K, wide-angle video camera and endpoint controller into an integrated package that can mount at the top of a display.  The controller uses facial recognition to intelligently zoom the camera frame to include everyone in the meeting – with the rationale that being able to see the reactions of those not speaking can be just as important as seeing the speaker.  The camera also can frame a whiteboard and process the real-time image to provide a full video frame independent of the angle of the camera to the whiteboard.  A demo proved the system is quite capable; the device is in beta and will ship sometime this spring.

WR's Marc Beattie getting the Dolby Voice Room “reads and speeds”
from Andrew Border, VP of the Communications Business Group at Dolby

Dolby’s go-to-market strategy involves pre-loading the Dolby Voice Room with third-party software to enable the device’s UX to be consistent with the VCaaS provider that is being used.  Initially the system will be available pre-loaded with software to provide the UX for BlueJeans or Highfive – with the appropriate Dolby Voice Room being sold by the channels that provide these services.  Of note: the Dolby Voice Room will not operate as a “traditional stand-alone” SIP video endpoint – only as the room “extension” of one of these pre-loaded services.

IBM Watson Workspace Plus with Zoom Video Meetings

IBM announced a “Plus” version of Watson Workplace, the company’s AI-enabled team collaboration app, which adds video meetings “powered by Zoom.”  IBM intends to go beyond “just” having Zoom provide audio, video, and data conferencing for Watson Workplace meetings by adding Watson-sourced AI capabilities as well.  The Plus offering is available from IBM today at prices that compare favorably with the “vanilla” Zoom service offering – and match Zoom’s price at the 200-participant level.  Of note: IBM emphasizes that Watson Workplace brings with it IBM’s enterprise-grade security, administration, and support – which must have set a high bar for Zoom to have achieved in bringing this offering to market.

Watson Workplace meeting powered by Zoom

To borrow IBM-speak, “Think” about this: IBM basically scuttled its own video conferencing technology, with roots way back in Sametime (and nurtured along the way with technology from Polycom), for Zoom.  A factor?  IBM’s realization that “tens of thousands” of IBM employees were already using Zoom.  Another factor? Meeting services are the way to go – Sametime’s on-prem heritage has become old school.  The icing on the cake?  All of the Zoom Rooms that must already exist in IBM alone.  Strike another huge win for room video conferencing that is an extension of the service – along with, in IBM’s case, a dose of Watson AI as well.

What I think

Dolby could have chosen to roll out a SIP-compatible room system that would have “worked” with any number of VCaaS services.  IBM could have made their Plus version of Watson Workplace based on Sametime in the cloud – which would have “worked” with Polycom and other traditional SIP room systems.  Both industry leaders elected to go with “service-attached” video solutions instead – for reasons that include ease of deployment (no “interop” issues since the service and the endpoint are one) and a consistent user experience driven by the video service itself.  Both moves are not only indicative of the industry direction – they are very wise.