Industry Briefings: September 2017

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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.

Does your company have any announcements or news to share? If so, you can schedule a briefing with LDV.

Array Telepresence
I caught up with Herold Willams (President & Founder) to get the latest news from Array Telepresence. Their unique camera and software dramatically improves the “bowling alley” videoconferencing experience you get in a typical long meeting room. It does this by digitally altering the image into a more natural “sitting across the table” meeting experience. As Array continues to build relationships with the channel, they are seeing additional potential in their approach. As Herold and I discussed, much of the Array power is software, which theoretically means their experience could be extended into other spaces/rooms or even other hardware devices.

While the Array experience is a little difficult to explain in text, if you have ever sat in on an Array demo, you get it immediately. There is definitely something of value here worth developing and pursuing. However, video is not a “build a better mousetrap and they will come” industry. There are always the questions of how to get your idea into the right product bundle at the right price through the right channel to the right market segment. I will keep in touch with Herold as he continues to develop this unique technology.

Highfive
I should be used to the unexpected from this extremely unconventional, yet highly successful, player in our space. Nevertheless, my briefing with Highfive CEO Shan Sinha took me completely off-guard. You see, I’ve sat through countless briefings from video vendors about their new WebRTC offerings. Every time it is the same story. They offer an option of using WebRTC for convenience (click to join, no download, video in your browser), or using their app for full functionality (higher quality, more features). This is what I expected from Shan and Highfive, but it turns out they have a completely different approach for WebRTC.

Highfive wants to lead with its WebRTC offering. They don’t want it to be a compromised experience for convenience. Highfive’s WebRTC will have full fidelity (including Dolby audio) and full functionality. This will allow Highfive’s WebRTC to replace their app completely making Highfive a no-download, no-compromise video experience. In other words, they are going all in on WebRTC. From a technology point of view, it makes sense for Highfive to put its chips on WebRTC since it is an open platform. That means they have the benefit of tens of thousands of co-developers working around the world to improve the platform. They also have the benefit of the fact that the major browsers are starting to see their WebRTC support as a differentiator and pushing development as a result.

This is more than just a platform choice for Highfive. To ensure WebRTC can support their roadmap, they will have to take an active role in the WebRTC development community. After speaking with Shan I got the impression that Highfive doesn’t intend to be just another vendor that supports WebRTC, but they want to be the WebRTC leaders in the space with deep ties into the community. I’ve used a few gambling analogies here, but I don’t think they are just rolling the dice on WebRTC. I think it is a safe bet (with the right approach) and I look forward to seeing how it pays off for Highfive.

Pexip
Skype for Business pretty much has a huge guaranteed market-share due to its inclusion in Office 365. So, getting any kind of exclusive certification from Microsoft for a product that supports or enhances S4B is a pretty big deal. I spoke with Jordan Owens (VP Americas) to get the details on Pexip’s new video interop certification for S4B.

First of all, this certification wasn’t just a matter of filling out a few forms. Pexip had to perform a list of updates/changes/improvements to their platform to meet very specific Microsoft requirements. While these include the expected technical items (boring stuff), I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the requirements were apparently designed to protect meeting quality. Call me jaded, but to be fair, creating a high quality meeting experience hasn’t always been a Microsoft priority.

As far as the certified functionality itself, the key is that this isn’t about connecting Skype callers into Pexip meetings (although Pexip supports that as well). This certification is about Pexip’s ability to act as a gateway allowing our standard meeting room systems to join Skype meetings. No one is a “Pexip caller” in this scenario. A typical S4B users creates a typical S4B meeting and invites his/her contacts in the normal way. The only difference is that a Polycom/Cisco/Lifesize/other system can join this S4B call directly. From the Skype user’s point of view, it’s just a normal/native S4B meeting. The S4B meeting host can even moderate the non-Skype attendees using the standard S4B interface.

This is a nice win for Pexip for two reasons. First of all, any MS certification is a feather in the cap. Secondly, this particular functionality addresses a pretty big need in the market.

StarLeaf
I was very excited to check out the new StarLeaf App at InfoComm 2017, so I checked in with Hellene Garcia (Director, Business Development), to find out how the beta program is going and catch up on other StarLeaf news. The beta program is going exceptionally well, with user feedback matching up perfectly with StarLeaf’s roadmap.

At InfoComm, I also got a chance to see the new integration of Huawei endpoints with StarLeaf’s UC OpenCloud. The best analogy I can think of is the experience when you open a new iPhone out of the box. Sure, you can make it work with a lot of apps and services, but those first few icons that are on the screen when you start it up the first time are part of the core experience. When you start up a new Huawei device, there is a default icon to connect to the StarLeaf UC OpenCloud and in a few clicks you are connected and getting all OpenCloud features and services.

Although StarLeaf’s specific financials are NDA, I can share that the news is all very good. While I can’t print numbers, I can talk about a few interesting trends. One is the success of their Skype Room systems (the GTm Family). At first glance, this might appear to be another product that interops with Skype for Business. However, the GTm is purely a native S4B system designed to provide meeting room quality. It doesn’t interop with S4B, because it is S4B. While I see a huge need/market for this niche, I was concerned about market confusion. I was very pleased to hear that this line has actually been a big winner for StarLeaf. The market gets it.

Another trend I can share is that StarLeaf is seeing huge growth from their existing customers. This says a lot to me. Growth among new customers is due to two factors: the strength of your service and the strength of your sales team. Viral growth among existing customers is almost entirely due to the strength of your offering (no offense to the sales team). If StarLeaf is enjoying huge wins from customers asking for massive expansions, that means those customers don’t just like using StarLeaf, they have proven the ROI to their decision makers. Expect more growth from StarLeaf, with more activity in North America in particular, in the quarters ahead.

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About Author

David Maldow is the Founder & CEO of Let's Do Video and has been covering the visual collaboration industry, and related technologies, for over a decade. His background includes 5 years at Wainhouse Research, where he managed the Video Test Lab and evaluated many of the leading solutions at the time. David has authored hundreds of articles and thought pieces both at Telepresence Options, where he was managing partner for several years, as well as here at Let's Do Video. David often speaks at industry events and webinars as well as hosting the LDV Video Podcast.

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