December 17th, 2012 by Leo Nieuwesteeg, Sr. Product Manager, Video
The recent changes in video conferencing have been staggering. Changes such as virtualization of the infrastructure, BYOD, and the cloud all have a big impact to video conferencing. This fast paced rate of change is only expected to accelerate further. Below we examine some of this year’s hottest technological trends, all of which we believe will continue to significantly impact, and potentially alter, the video conferencing market. Key trends to watch in 2013 are as follows:
The cloud has already impacted video conferencing: Many companies currently offer a video conferencing cloud-based service (e.g., Blue Jeans Networks), and these services remove one of the barriers for companies to deploy video conferencing. That is, companies don’t need to worry about complex infrastructure equipment to host video conferencing; they can simply leverage cloud-based services. This trend will accelerate in 2013 as vendors move more and more of their infrastructure to virtualized solutions, which will make these cloud offerings even easier to deploy.
PC Clients and Personal Devices
BYOD is already on the rise and this video conferencing trend will only accelerate in 2013. Whether using a PC client or a mobile device, this is where the most growth in video conferencing will occur. The PC already has horsepower sufficient enough to provide high-quality video experiences, and there are many PC clients to choose from. These clients’ ease of use, combined with their relatively decent video quality and low price points, will continue to drive the acceleration of these devices. This will most likely have the biggest impact on the overall video conferencing business due to the following key points:
- Increases the availability of video conferencing to the masses.
- Puts pricing pressure on vendors and video conferencing service providers.
- Puts more pressure on IT staff since there is more video traffic and devices to manage.
Commoditization of Video
Currently, users buy phones—e.g., smartphones, deskphones, VoIP phones—but very few people look at a phone’s ability to make voice calls as a differentiator. They look at its fancy features such as screen resolution, useful applications (like Siri), number of buttons, display size, video capabilities, etc. Given the technological advances and the proliferation of smart phones, its only a matter of time until video capabilities themselves are such an inherent part of cell phones that they will no longer be a differentiator. This can also be seen in the desktop phones when looking at vendor product lines like the Cisco 8900 and 9900 series phones.
H.265 is a really exciting (OK, at least for geeks) technology that can reduce the BW required for the same level of quality of video by up to 50%. H.265 refers to the standards for the video codec. This standard is currently in draft format and is expected to be ratified in early 2013. While it will take some time before we perceive the impact of this codec, it certainly will have the following effects:
- The cost of video conferencing will decrease, since BW cost is a key component in overall price and H.265 will literally cut the cost of BW in half.
- Video quality should generally increase since many video calls are currently limited to a specific BW. This will have an immediate impact on quality.
The impact of H.265 in 2013 will depend on how quickly PC clients adopt this technology and whether any of the vendors’ existing products could be actually upgraded to support this new codec. (Important to note: The new codec requires more horsepower; thus, existing devices may not have the capability to run it.)
4K (Ultra-High Definition UHD)
Another exciting trend is the increasing support for 4K screens and cameras. 4K refers to the resolution. Current HD refers to 1920×1080 pixels; 4K refers to 3840×2160. This actually serves to quadruple the number of pixels. At the same time however, it has the same impact on the BW. With the additional cost of the systems needed to deliver 4K video conferencing plus the additional BW required combined with the decrease in the high-end Immersive Video systems market this year, it’s unlikely that we can expect to see any of the vendors deliver a 4K video conferencing system in 2013. Come on, Cisco and Polycom—prove us wrong!
Perhaps one of the biggest disruptive technologies this year will be the fruition of WebRTC. This promises to make video conferencing as easy as clicking on a website. Anyone with a PC will be able to leverage video conferencing without the need for a special client SW. Why? Because WebRTC embeds all the required capabilities directly into your browser. This technology definitely will be an interesting one to keep your eye on throughout 2013. However, we don’t foresee this to be specifically disruptive to the existing video conferencing market (after all, it doesn’t really address the PC client interoperability issue, though it can make it easier to join a conference in the cloud). From our perspective, this technology will video-enable just about everything. In general, this technology makes it much easier for websites to offer video services. Verbling (www.verbling.com) is a community that connects people who are trying to learn a language with native speakers. WebRTC would be a perfect fit for this type of application. Thus, we expect to see more and more of these unique applications where video communication greatly increases the experience. (Note that currently, we do not believe that Microsoft or Apple have plans to support WebRTC in their browsers, which could delay the impact of this technology in 2013. Of course, it could also cause Microsoft to lose a sizeable share of the web browser market.)
Given some of the exciting technologies revolving around video conferencing, we expect 2013 to be a very interesting year for video conferencing. However, it should be noted that with all these new technologies, interoperability becomes even more important. Without a concerted effort by all players involved in video communications, ubiquitous video is only wishful thinking.