Predictions for the video conferencing industry are tricky, as the market experienced some dramatic changes in the last 10 years. Video conferencing doesn't see gradual quality improvements with some feature creep like other technology markets. The video conferencing market has had entire revolutions in the way business video is created, delivered and used.
In 2019, we saw some trends have such incredible momentum that it feels somewhat safe to speculate on how they will continue and influence new trends. Let's take a look into 2020 at the video conferencing trends driving the market for both vendors and users.
1. Hardware and software partnerships in meeting rooms
Software vendors have introduced room versions of their popular desktop and mobile apps. Hardware vendors similarly have devices and bundles designed to run these room apps. We haven't seen such a perfect combination since peanut butter met jelly.
People want to make calls in their huddle rooms and larger meeting rooms using the same service, interface and workflow they use all day long on desktop and mobile. They don't want to have to learn how to use a meeting room system. In 2019 we saw these partnerships go to the next level with software vendor room apps running natively on partnered hardware systems, as opposed to running the software on a mini PC with Windows OS.
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In 2020, vendors will work together on a deeper development level to improve the meeting experience. Take intelligent framing, for example. Zooming out to include everyone and zooming in and panning over to the current speaker greatly increase the interactivity and overall meeting experience.
But no one ever bothers to manually use the camera controls, so meetings have suffered from years of zoomed out meetings with tiny people on screen. In recent years, vendors have developed multiple technologies and approaches to automatically manage zoom and framing on both on the hardware and software side.
2. Productivity-enhancing features
For the entire history of business video, the story has been that video is hard, expensive and unreliable. All a vendor needed to do to differentiate was prove it was a little easier, more affordable and more reliable than the competition. But a few years ago, the industry finally reached the point where video was easy, affordable and works as it should. Customers are no longer impressed with high-quality video that just works, and vendors need new ways to differentiate.
Some video vendors responded in 2019 by focusing on business video's actual goal of improving meeting productivity, including for remote participants. New capabilities included transcription, video clipping, file sharing, translation and integrations with productivity apps.
This approach is wise and welcomed. If video vendors are running their software on devices in meeting rooms of all sizes, they are well positioned to introduce new productivity features to enhance meetings. At the end of the day, we don't say our meeting was a success because the video didn't experience jitter. We say the meeting was a success because we got a lot of work done. Helping customers be more productive and get more value out of meetings is a great way for video vendors to differentiate.
3. Support for live video editing
Up until now, there have been two worlds of video: recorded and live. Recorded video can have amazing production value and unlimited effects. Live video, whether it's a meeting or a webinar, is generally a raw camera feed from a meeting room or desktop camera.
New streaming software has been developed to offer live video editing, which creates post-production effects during a live video call. These post-production effects range from changing backgrounds to advanced camera effects and tricks. I use these capabilities on every video call and webinar I make, and this is just part of a bigger video conferencing trend for these types of features.
Several vendors, like Zoom, already offer features that support greenscreen and virtual backgrounds and are actively adding more. In the future, we will rely less on the third-party software as basic business video apps will support live video editing features.
4. User habits drive video conferencing growth
As video services become more affordable and usable, our culture has become more video-ready. Organizations are deploying the new generation of room apps running on cutting-edge devices in huddle rooms and larger meeting rooms around the world. They are running services with proven successful adoption models.
At the same time, users are becoming more and more video-hungry. Many would prefer to watch a YouTube video than read a user manual at home, and users want to consume information the same way at work. This is a continuing video conferencing trend, but video will continue to edge its way into truly being an expected and natural part of daily workflows.
5. Industry competition heats up
A few notable companies, like Zoom, have had great success in the video market in recent years, to the point where they are drawing outside attention to the market. On the one hand, this helps the entire business video industry grow -- which is great for competition. On the other hand, the companies at the center of the new attention are likely to get an oversized share of this new growth.
When McDonalds enters a new region, a few years later you may find a lot of Burger Kings and Wendy's have also opened in that region. Other times, it just become a region where everyone eats McDonalds. It seems there is enough differentiation and potential among the competition to keep the market interesting for some time. However, the momentum of a handful of leaders is going to make it much harder for everyone else to stay in the game.