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Video conference tools spread among buyers and sellers

With the help of cloud-based technology, video conference vendors can roll out more options for potential buyers, who now face a mounting array of use cases.

Video conference tools are becoming more versatile. As a result, video conferencing vendors are expected to support more features and high definition across multiple endpoints, including mobile devices, desktops and conference rooms. Buyers, too, need to assess more options, as use cases have expanded.

New video conferencing use cases are making visual collaboration a strategic imperative for enterprises, according to a recent report from Aragon Research Inc., an advisory firm based in Morgan Hill, Calif. Aragon views video conference use cases as part of the larger unified communications and collaboration landscape.

More and more, enterprises are trying to align collaboration investments with business outcomes, the report found. As a result, Aragon said it expects to see further growth in video conference tools. For enterprises, video conference use cases -- along with quality and reliability -- will be key buying criteria. As is the case with most technology purchases, video conference use cases will dictate vendor selection.

"Our advice to enterprise buyers is to first consider what your core requirements are with regard to web and video conferencing," the report reads. "We encourage buyers to consider which capabilities and products best fit the required use cases that pertain to your enterprise."

For example, if an enterprise has internal and external-facing use cases for a large number of people, then webcasting tools may be the best fit. In the near future, Aragon added, expect new video conference use cases to arise in 2018 as endpoints become fully mobile, with cars and drones playing a larger role.

Video conference tools across modalities

For video conference vendors, mobility is the new competitive frontier, Aragon said, as vendors look to enable video meetings from anywhere on any device. But buyers beware, as video experiences on mobile devices and the ease of accessing meetings can vary.

The Aragon report advised buyers to carefully evaluate providers for ease of connectivity. For instance, the mobile application should automatically connect to the meeting via voice over IP or dial-in. Additionally, the mobile app should not require a passcode and provide one-click connectivity.

"Ease of use is not optional, no matter the device or the environment," the report stated. "Albeit there are still providers today who are not optimized for mobile."

In addition to mobile, video conference vendors are expected to support desktop and room-based meetings to allow seamless switching among devices.

Conference rooms get video upgrades

Because of cloud technology and lower hardware prices, Aragon predicted fivefold growth in video-enabled conference rooms from 2017 to 2022. In five years, 65% of conference rooms will be video-enabled, Aragon said.

Enterprises need to digitize conference rooms, open workspaces and smaller huddle areas, Aragon advised, as employees face new work demands, including increased collaboration across groups, distances and affiliations.

Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind.

Aragon also cited the importance of "intelligent" video rooms, where meetings can be automated and employ artificial intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of meeting activity and the devices and users involved. Many providers have also looked to enhance meetings by using HD video with auto-zoom and HD audio with auto-muting of background noise.

As video conference tools evolve, businesses are demanding high-quality, high-resolution meetings. To date, Avaya, Cisco, Google and Vidyo offer 4K video support, Aragon said. The research firm said it expects to see more support for 4K video in 2018 and beyond.

In addition to HD quality, video conference vendors are now expected to integrate with other business applications. Collaboration providers that fail to support business process and application integration will miss this wave and be left behind, Aragon said.

Chart vendor roadmaps

Overall, as video conference tools evolve -- thanks to cloud technology -- vendors and buyers are also expected to evolve to stay competitive and enhance collaboration workflows. The cloud is one of the key reasons for the widespread video conference tools today.  

The wide-ranging Aragon report, written by Aragon CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy, highlights the convergence of web and video conferencing services and examines 22 providers in the market. The report, released this month, stated real-time video conference tools bring together geographically dispersed teams visually, which can improve collaboration.

"Enterprises need to realize visual collaboration can help speed up internal employee and external customer journeys to get to faster business outcomes," Lundy said in a statement. "The enterprises who are leveraging visual collaboration have a competitive advantage because they're supporting how their people and customers need and want to work."

The report advised enterprises to ask for detailed roadmaps from providers to ensure they mesh with enterprise technology and business direction.

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