Looking into the future and describing in broad strokes how any technology will unfold is difficult enough, but breaking it down in detail is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, as someone who enjoys a challenge, I'll offer up what I expect from WebRTC in 2015. Because Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) advances are on the fast track, I've broken my predictions into topic areas to help you track them and find what you're looking for.
WebRTC browser support
- By the second quarter of 2015, we will see Internet Explorer 11 get WebRTC support. I doubt Microsoft will support it in any other versions of the browser, but if it does, enterprises will get an unexpected treat. Mobile versions of Internet Explorer will have WebRTC by late 2015.
- Apple will not introduce WebRTC in Safari until 2016.
- If you follow me on BlogGeek.me, you'll notice that these predictions are the exact opposite of my estimates earlier this year about possible adoption of WebRTC in IE and Safari. Things change.
Video codecs for WebRTC
In December, I covered the video codec decision for WebRTC in detail. Based on the Internet Engineering Task Force approval of H.264 and VP8, here's what I expect from the major browser makers:
- Google will support H.264, VP8 and VP9 in Chrome.
- Mozilla will support H.264 and VP8 in Firefox.
- Microsoft will support H.264 and maybe VP8 in Internet Explorer.
- Opera will support H.264, VP8 and VP9 in its namesake browser, which is based on the same Chromium code as Google Chrome.
WebRTC API platforms
WebRTC API platforms provide unified communications as a service (UCaaS) using WebRTC and are one of the engines that enable enterprise adoption of this technology.
Changes within the domain in 2014 included the acquisition of AddLive by SnapChat and Requestec by Blackboard and the licensing of Crocodile RCS by Acision. We also saw new platform providers enter the market, including Bistri, Kandy, ooVoo, Respoke and Sinch.
The sector will remain active in 2015, and I predict we'll see the following moves:
- At least two of the smaller WebRTC API platform players will be acquired for their technology, not for their customers or market share. Both vendors will be taken off the market.
- One platform maker will be unable to grow fast enough and will have to shut down.
WebRTC use in contact centers
In the contact center, these two use cases will take the frontlines:
- WebRTC embedded into customer relationship management software will replace agent desktop phones and VoIP software. Customers will call as they do today, but the agents will use WebRTC. This quiet evolution will be strong in 2015.
- Video contact centers will shine where human involvement is needed in the sales process. Domains that will lead in this area include banking, insurance, healthcare, auto dealerships, realtors and jewelers.
Enabling voice access to the contact center from websites will not see huge uptake in 2015. It will take time for this segment to mature and go mainstream.
Video conferencing with WebRTC support
In 2015, the holdouts among video conferencing vendors will add WebRTC support for these reasons:
- We've already seen LifeSize, Cisco and Microsoft add WebRTC. Polycom and Avaya will be next. Don't expect earth-shattering, mind-blowing changes in any of the vendors' business models, pricing or user experience. WebRTC will help them sell new licenses into their existing customer base, but it won't help them grow considerably in 2015.
- New entrants like Pexip and Acano will grow at a healthy clip, but will not make a real dent in the market.
Broadcast and multipoint
There are times when a video conference includes multiple participants, called multipoint in tech jargon, or is broadcast to a large number of people monitoring the call but not participating in it. While WebRTC allows such use cases, it requires a lot of back-end engineering.
While a few WebRTC platform providers have multipoint capabilities, they are expensive, and enterprises typically prefer to have more flexibility and control over communications. In 2015, we will see one or two new vendors offering solutions for broadcast and multipoint that will be inexpensive and more useful.
Consumer and enterprise VoIP
New mobile app makers like Switch.co, Talko and Wire Swiss are trying to reinvent the voice call. The search for the next-generation audio call will extend well into 2015, with more players targeting either the consumer or the enterprise market. While these may include video, voice will take center stage.
Vendors will try to innovate around user experience, automatic call recording, speech to text and analytics.
Possible unexpected WebRTC game changers
Here are a few wishful thinking items that might happen in 2015. I hope some of these come true:
- Apple adds support for WebRTC in iOS and Safari. If that happens, the company will probably go for H.264 and H.265 video codecs.
- Microsoft adds H.265 support to IE, maybe through a licensing deal with Vidyo.
- A large messaging platform (WhatsApp, Line or WeChat) opens up access to its network from the browser using WebRTC.
- Akamai adds P2P using WebRTC's data channel as part of its content delivery network.
Moving on to you -- what are your predictions for WebRTC in 2015?
About the author:
Tsahi Levent-Levi is a VoIP and WebRTC consultant, as well as the author of the BlogGeek.Me blog, where he gives his opinions on disruptive technology in communications.
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