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UC milestones in 2012: Desktop video conferencing

In this review of 2012 desktop video conferencing trends, we look at cloud-based video and Avaya's efforts to compete with Microsoft and Cisco.

Unified communications technologies

As desktop video conferencing becomes a more familiar and accepted communication method for the enterprise, vendors have begun addressing technological concerns -- like reducing bandwidth demand and enabling cloud-based video, said Andrew Davis, senior partner and analyst at Duxbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research. As part of our 2012 UC Milestones series, Davis gave us a year-in-review look at the changes the enterprise desktop video market experienced this year.

Desktop video conferencing leaves the ground, enters the cloud

Perhaps one of the more noteworthy benchmarks for desktop video conferencing was the industry's shift into software-based, cloud video services.

"The industry is really looking to cloud-based video as the future," Davis said. "People are now used to roaming around with iPads and smartphones, and have gotten more familiar with cloud. They are going to expect video to be delivered the same way."

While the industry is still waiting to see how Microsoft's 2012 acquisition of Skype, a popular software-based video and telephony service, will affect the market, many expect Microsoft to integrate the service with Lync, allowing users to connect with Skype contacts via voice and instant messages, and share presence status.

"I think Skype is suitable for road warriors, but it still has a while to go before enterprises use it for conference calls," Davis said.

More vendor options for desktop video conferencing

The enterprise desktop video conferencing market historically has been dominated by IT vendors like Microsoft and Cisco Systems. But 2012 saw another contender enter the ring, giving customers a real choice in enterprise video options, Davis said.

Avaya Inc., a Basking Ridge, N.J.-based UC vendor, bolstered its video conferencing portfolio through its acquisition of desktop video vendor Radvision in March, a move that could land Avaya squarely in the Microsoft-Cisco camp and give users a viable third desktop option, Davis said.

Microsoft's quiet release of Lync 2013, the vendor's enterprise UC platform, also included an important desktop video enhancement, Davis said, noting that Lync will now support scalable video coding through the H.264 SVC standard. "This is important news for the entire video community," he said. "The standard is cloud-friendly and offers a tremendous cost savings for multi-point calls -- it is really an enabler for cloud-based video conferencing services."

Several vendors -- including Cisco and Vidyo -- have even begun demonstrating H.265 -- the newest international standard for video compression and decompression -- which is set to be finalized in early 2013. The standard will offer enterprises between 30% and 40% savings in bandwidth for video calling.

While video technology may have evolved, integration and interoperability with enterprise UC and collaboration tools still left much to be desired in 2012. "Video conferencing is still complicated and fraught with danger," Davis said. "When it's integrated into UC and [users] can easily click to call, I think that will go a long way towards solving adoption problems."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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