What's The Next Big Channel Opportunity In Video?

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Enterprise video as a front-and-center channel opportunity? That's nothing new.

But with more solution providers getting into the video game than ever before -- and the role of video in unified communications expanding -- the definition of "video solution provider" is no longer just about endpoints and connectivity. It's systems, software, UC and content management, too, and all of those things will come to define the video channel of tomorrow. Recent research and moves by some of video's top vendors, including Cisco and Polycom, all support the claim.

In its most recent quarterly report on Enterprise Telepresence and Video Conferencing, Infonetics Research said annual revenue for enterprise video conferencing and telepresence systems grew 18 percent in 2010, and exited the year a $2.2 billion worldwide market.

That market is expected to more than double by 2015, according to Infonetics, and should top $5 billion by then, too. Thanks to its acquisition of Tandberg, Cisco enjoys the No. 1 spot in overall enterprise video conferencing revenue, laying claim to 50 percent in 2010. Polycom is the No. 2 vendor for revenue, but leads Cisco in units shipped, according to the researcher.

Either way, the growth is unmistakable.

"Communicating via video continues to be one of the top trends in telecom, as evidence by strong growth in the enterprise video market," noted Matthias Machowinski, Infonetics' directing analyst for enterprise networks and video, in the report. "Businesses worldwide are looking for richer means of communications with their employees, partners, and customers, and enterprise videoconferencing and telepresence solutions are a natural fit."

Multi-purpose room systems account for the majority of enterprise video conferencing equipment, Infonetics noted. But immersive telepresence systems are expected to have the highest growth rates.

"The biggest winners in the enterprise communication market will be those who offer solutions that are multi-modal, visual (e.g. video-based), and support the collaboration requirements of globally distributed organizations," Machowinski said.

Indeed, video solutions have never been more ubiquitous. And now that video is so accessible, customers are demanding that it also be flexible, said Manak Ahluwalia, chief technology officer at Alliant Technologies, a Morristown, N.J.-based solution provider and Cisco Gold partner.

"One thing we're seeing is that, traditionally, video started more as an executive or conference room experience," he said. "Telepresence provided an additional user experience at that level, where face-to-face [meeting] isn't necessary, and it's easy enough to use. Now the experience is built into laptops and iPads and they are using technologies like Skype and WebEx connect. We're seeing the marriage between the corporate and personal sides of the house with federation-type technologies."

What that means, Ahluwalia said, is that the lines between what constitutes "enterprise" business video and consumer video will continue to blur.

Cisco, for example, recently announced full interoperability between Umi, its consumer-centric telepresence system, and its broader TelePresence portfolio. That's a shrewd move, Ahluwalia notes, because it separates Cisco from the pack in terms of its ability to tie consumer and business video together versus its competitors'.

"I think the next evolution we've seen starting to pop-up is tying businesses to consumers. Cisco's recent announcement with Umi is part of that," he said. "They [consumers] can't bear the price points like businesses do but that's the next big wave of the user experience and customer service. Consumers now have low-cost, high-experience platforms that businesses will be able to tap into."

Next: The Video Market Leans Toward Software

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