Take videoconferencing downmarket

Take videoconferencing downmarket

There’s no doubt the videoconferencing market is ripe for partners’ picking because the technology makes so much business sense.

The benefits of conferencing systems took on even greater significance as IT companies scrambled to make cost efficiencies last year, cutting travel budgets of staff moving between domestic and international offices.

Conferencing systems also facilitate company partnerships and these came to the fore as companies sought to pool resources in 2009. They also assist companies competing on the world stage to communicate remotely but cost-effectively.

Adoption rates have risen on the back of companies’ aims to meet sustainable IT practice goals, along with the falling prices of unified systems that contain audio and video elements.

The industry has also ironed out many wrinkles that previously hindered purchases – low internet connectivity speed and robustness (although New Zealanders may beg to differ on the issue of speed), poor video quality, lack of system interoperability (to an extent), inadequate PC processing power, the quality of endpoint devices such as the web cameras themselves, the growing advent of high definition video, along with the integration of video into unified communications systems.

US-based Wainhouse Research predicts the videoconferencing market will grow to exceed $7.98 billion by 2013, with strong growth tipped for telepresence units, enterprise and personal systems, endpoints and infrastructure, including gateways. Gartner, meanwhile, forecasts compound annual growth rate in this market of 17.8 percent by that year.

Globally, potentially dominant players are emerging through M&A activity. Along with Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg, Logitech plans to buy LifeSize, which specialises in HD systems. HP, meanwhile, announced its acquisition of networking provider 3Com.

Despite falling prices and the maturity of videoconferencing systems in terms of features, functionality and the adoption curve, opportunities in New Zealand need to be set in the context of the dominance of the small business world.

So how can the channel here capitalise on the chance to take the technology beyond the enterprise market?

Firstly, conferencing systems made their name in no small part among educational institutions. But there is an expanding variety of verticals that are now seeking to put these systems to use, including healthcare firms, courts, financial institutions and remote sales/field forces.

As unified communications systems become more ubiquitous, videoconferencing has become an integral part of the consulting opportunity for UC partners. It adds an extra dimension and point of value to the demonstrable productivity gains staff can realise with linked VoIP, email and IM systems, as well as presence.

With adequate user training, firms can generally gain a quick return on their investment.

Mobility has also become a key part of videoconferencing and unified communications systems, and this is an area in which consumer habits have been a driving force.

With 3G network capability and video calling more prevalent on smartphones and consumer devices, they expect their workplaces to make the same technology available. This is particularly true of workers who have adopted other forms of electronic communication

A prime opportunity can also be found at the junction of videoconferencing and managed services.

Sufficiently upgrading infrastructure is a major hurdle for firms on the path to unified communications, initially, then video communications. That’s where relying on externally-provided, secure networks can ease the burden. It’s also a chance for channel members to provide a full offering of hosted services, system management and monitoring, hardware, security and software.

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