During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals, I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below, in alphabetical order, are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.
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Todd Carothers (Exec VP Sales & Marketing) gave me a quick demo of the CounterPath Bria solution. CounterPath has deep roots in the VoiP space, with over 20 patents in related UC technologies. With over 20 million Bria clients in the field, their UC platform has a solid base and continues to grow. They are currently focusing on enterprise features, such as advanced customization, a scalable user experience, and of course, interoperability with other platforms. We were impressed by some unique capabilities during the demo. In particular, the ability to quickly get advanced tech support within the app itself was notable. We will be sure to take a closer look at this service.
Osman Duman (President & CEO) and team gave me a great demo of this very interesting take on the team messaging phenomena. In many ways, the Vibe offering from eZuce is like your typical team messaging platform. You can create project based channels and invite your team members. However, it has a video first approach. When you join a channel, you see a filmstrip view of everyone who is in that channel. Typically, people remain muted, but they can see each other working, and unmute to start talking at any time. This creates much more of a community/team feeling than typical chat rooms, and can be particularly attractive for remote workers to build a sense of connectedness to the rest of the team. The offering has some other power features, such as the ability to open and work with apps (such as Salesforce or Excel) within the Vibe application live with your team. That brings collaboration to an entirely new level. With all the Slack clones out there, it is refreshing to see something truly different.
I spoke with Ann-Marie Darrough (Director of Project Management, IBM Watson Work), to get the inside story following the recent announcement of their new partnership with Zoom. As a big fan of team messaging solutions, I have been very interested in IBM’s Watson Workspace offering. My big question was whether this is one of IBM’s famous experimental forays, or whether this was intended to be a competitive product in the marketplace. Ann-Marie explained that IBM is serious about being a player in the team communications space, and the partnership with Zoom is just the beginning.
What makes Watson Workspace notable, is the intelligence of Watson. For example, if you are away from your workspace (travel, vacation, etc), Watson provides you with “moments”, which are highlights or summaries of key moments in the chat which you may have missed. Clicking on any “moment” takes you right to that place in the chat, so you can read up in full context. Without this, you really have to read (or at least skim) a lot of various chat threads when you return from a trip. Watson’s intelligence also applies to the Zoom partnership, as it can access and summarize meeting transcripts in real time. If you are late for a meeting, it is easy to catch up, without disrupting the other meeting attendees. Watson Workspace has a number of other power differentiators, including intelligent templates for instantly creating new spaces/channels with the right people and assets. I plan on trialing this soon and will let you all know what I discover.
During my recent briefing with Clayton Pritchard (Product Marketing Manager), a funny thing happened. He got “kicked out” of the meeting room he was using, so he had to use that hot Highfive feature allowing him to transfer the call to his phone, walk to another meeting room, and transfer the same call from his phone to a room system in the new room. With most competitors, you would have to drop and reconnect the call. This always impresses me, and Clayton had to assure me that it wasn’t staged. The flexibility of the Highfive workflow has enabled a very flexible work culture at Highfive. They do this for real.
There is a lot happening at Highfive, and Clayton took us through some of the items from his recent blog post on Highfive’s new enterprise features. Interoperability with SIP endpoints is a big “checklist” item for enterprise customers. No one wants to scrap their existing, video room systems. Enterprise level customer service is another essential element of any scalable offering. Highfive also has a new pricing model, which is more in line with competitive offerings with options for software-only, room system, and mixed bundles. Wisely, Highfive is also doubling down on their partnership with Dolby by offering upgraded versions of their room system including the Dolby Conference Phone, or the new Dolby Voice Room system.
Once in a while we come across something completely different, and potentially a bellwether for a new trend. I’ve been saying for a while now that video should no longer be thought of as a stand-alone product. Video is now flexible enough to be treated as a feature, seamlessly embedded into any product or workflow. With that in mind, we should expect more and more purpose specific applications leveraging video. Paññã is one such application. As Co-Founder Rahul Kukreti explained, it is a platform for conducting online interviews. There is a lot more to an interview than skimming a resume and having a face-to-face chat. Panna offers various modules and templates that allow companies to test and rate interviewees on a number of criteria in addition to other interview-specific functionality. They have a freemium offering, and a number of big name clients already using their enterprise offering. I look forward to following Paññã and I expect more purpose specific video applications to develop in the near future.
Some of the hottest real estate at the Enterprise Connect event was at the Zoom booth. Hardware vendors are lining up to bundle their products with Zoom’s popular video software. One newcomer to our space, Suirui, had a proud spot showing its speakerbar/camera solution. I briefed with Lijun Chen (COO), who gave me insight into the company’s close relationship with Zoom. Eric Yuan, Zoom’s Founder and CEO is notoriously protective of the Zoom experience, and very picky about his partners. Lijun explained how Suirui’s developers had to go beyond their successful existing systems (integrated with WeChat, which is the default messaging/social-media app in China) to make a product ready for Zoom integration and the US market. I am very interested to see how Zoom customers take to this affordable and attractive option for their Zoom Rooms.
Lev Yakupov (Director of Marketing) always has plenty of updates from this Russian video platform vendor. This year, they have a number of new partnerships with hardware AV companies, including Logitech, Panasonic, Phoenix Audio, Yamaha, and AVer. Their freemium offering is enjoying massive adoption in Russia and other locations around the world and continues to add new, and even cutting edge, capabilities like 4k support.
Tolga Sakman (Managing Director, Collaboration Advisory Group), introduced me to two new companies in our space. The first is Impelo.io. This is so cool you might want to click through and get a free trial as soon as you finish reading this. The service provides you with a virtual assistant/transcriptionist for video meetings. It integrates with your calendar and automatically joins any Zoom, BlueJeans, Webex, GoToMeeting, GoogleHangout, etc., that it sees in your calendar. From the meeting point of view, it appears as if an audio-only participant (named “David’s Assistant” in my case) has joined your meeting. The assistant records and transcribes the meeting, and sends you an email with a link afterwards. It was noteworthy that the assistant sent the link to the transcript almost immediately after the meeting ended, as other transcriptions services can have a long wait. The transcription itself had some pretty cool features, like the ability to go immediately to anywhere within the audio recording, by clicking on the text. Another cool feature is the ability to pull out questions from the transcript, which it does by recognizing how the tone/pitch of our voices change when we ask a question. It also has analytics, including who spoke what percentage of the time, and other interesting data. I will be using this in my meetings going forward.
The other company is Quickchannel which offers a product to record and stream video meetings. Unlike competitive solutions, which join meetings as a SIP client, the Quickchannel offering pulls its recording/streaming feed directly from the MCU which offers more flexibility and layout control. The solution offers basic editing (clip trimming) and works with on-premise video bridges like CMS or Pexip.