Having attended analyst events by Cisco and Polycom in the past month I'd like to share my key takeaways from the announcements for the companies' positions in the videoconferencing and collaboration software markets.
- Cloud AXIS, a browser-based videoconferencing service promises to simplify connectivity. Videoconferencing in a browser window without the need for any downloads will help promote adoption. It could also make other enterprise videoconferencing initiatives — B2B, desktop-to-room connectivity, and BYOD — easier to achieve. We can see the promise of browser-based connectivity in BlueJeans' introduction of the technology, where it already accounts for 25% of endpoints on calls using the service.
- SVC and multi-stream videoconferencing architecture lower the cost per port. Room-based videoconferencing vendors are under growing pressure to provide alternative deployment options to the expensive transcoding MCU. By supporting the SVC codec as well as interoperability with mainstream AVC, Polycom can offer the best of both worlds. Also, Polycom is using the same flavor of SVC as Microsoft in Lync 2013, maintaining the synergy of a Polycom + Microsoft strategy.
- Software MCUs on standard servers will simplify deployments and improve manageability. Software MCUs will combine functions — MCU, gateway, content server, and desktop client server— that buyers have had to deploy through multiple appliances. Virtualized software MCUs will allow buyers more control in scaling their videoconferencing capacity to support more endpoints in their environments.
- Maintaining its technology leadership in real-time and archived video. Many attendees got their first look at the H.265 codec, which Cisco showed at 50% bandwidth savings over H.264 AVC in 720p30. H.265 will generally start making its way into commercial products in 2013 (Not a statement on Cisco's timeline). There was also an impressive demo of the speech-to-text and analytics capabilities in Cisco's Show & Share video recording and streaming solution, which promise to help viewers navigate and search recorded video as effectively as we do with text today.
- Putting a strong emphasis on the cloud collaboration services. Cisco has doubled its number of Hosted Collaboration Suite (HCS) partners and increased the number of customers using the platform. It continues to make progress in bringing together an integrated solution on a common architectural platform and now has three applications in the cloud: Jabber, Webex Meetings, and Webex Social (formerly Quad). Interestingly, in line with its goal of introducing cloud and on premises versions of its software that are at parity with each other, Cisco also filled a gap in the portfolio with Webex on premises for the first time.
- Positioning more strongly to displace Microsoft Office 365. Extending the Webex brand to Cisco's other collaboration workloads was a strong statement of intent to deliver an integrated collaboration suite in the cloud. Building on its strengths in real time collaboration, Cisco is adding asynchronous collaboration with Webex Social and the future release of Webex Files for file sync and file sharing. Webex Social even now has a feature to help manage collaborative document editing in Microsoft Office. I have no doubt Cisco will continue to make good on its promise of bringing together an integrated collaboration suite.