As the totality of events of 2020 is chronicled and shelved to history, few participants living through the year of the COVID-19 pandemic will speak of positive experiences or focus on winners and silver linings. Most will recount experiences of the significant losses, financial and personal, suffered during the overwhelming disruptions to basic human maneuvering. It was often stated that the 100-year event would leave few, if any, industries unafflicted, but as the smoke begins to lift the hypostasis of total ruin begins to unravel. It appears that even in the worst of times, some can experience the best of times.
The year of the pandemic turned out to be a massive period of growth for video conferencing software providers. Valued at $3.85 billion in 2019, the web and video conferencing category experienced a 500% increase in consumer activity since the outbreak of COVID-19. Bloomberg reports that active daily video conference users increased by 2,900% in just four months as the mandated closing of work environments spread across the world. With 67% of companies increasing remote conferencing spending in 2020, the video conferencing market is predicted to reach a value of $13.82 billion by 2023. But the phenomenal performance is not likely to become a short-lived fad or a technology flash in the pan.
As companies realize considerable cost savings in travel and time, increased productivity and the convenience of remote conferencing, the future of remote software appears to be assured. Concerns about the effects of a lack of face-to-face interactions with fellow associates in the workforce are easing as 89% of people report that they believe that video conferencing helps them to feel connected. Approximately 98% of the respondents felt that video interaction strengthened relationships with family, friends, and fellow employees.
“[Video conferencing software] is very beneficial for any organization because it saves time and the hassle associated with travel, cuts expenses, and increases productivity,” said Ayushi Sharma, Marketing Manager for iFour Technolab Pvt. Ltd. “These solutions let users share their screens, remotely access one another’s PCs, exchange documents, chat via text, communicate through digital whiteboards, and even broadcast conferences to large groups of viewers.” So what brands are best positioned to grow and prosper in the video conferencing software space?
The best video conferencing software provides access to a menu of tools that promote a collaborative remote experience, and are easy to learn, functionally familiar, easily adaptable to upgrades and improvements, and affordable. The most recognized names in the space are Zoom, Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Webex, and GoToMeeting, but the position of leadership in the market has little to do with veteran or rookie status.
Webex, once the most recognized and rewarded player on the field, appears to have been complacent and sitting back on its lead as the video conferencing market exploded around it and new entrants in the space “zoomed” past. Webex is now promoting its service as the one most ideally suited for cloud collaboration. With two different platforms, Webex Meetings and Webex Teams, it is promoting itself as the conferencing service that is “Better Than Being There”.
Microsoft Teams is focusing on becoming the team that most easily integrates with popular programs such as Office 365, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Users can pick from annual subscription plans that allow hosting meetings of up to 250 participants. The plans range from $5 to $20 per user per month. There is a free version of Teams, but it only allows for one-on-one video calls, not conferences with multiple attendees.
Veteran GoToMeeting (GTM) boasts that its users can host meetings of up to 3,000 people; however, only 25 attendees can utilize live streaming at a time. For that reason, GTM is considered best-suited for small businesses that do not need to sponsor large online gatherings.
Zoom is currently leading the pack and is recognized as the best overall video conferencing service. With a variety of service plans for all business sizes and budgets, the platform is easy to use and provides a wide range of features and tools. The simultaneous HD video feed and webcam feature are popular among users, as are active speaker views, telephone dial-in numbers, meeting recording, screen sharing, group messaging, and its ability to easily integrate with Chrome and Outlook.
For players like Skype, Google Meet, and Slant to keep pace with the leaders, they will need to focus on new technologies and finding an unserved consumer niche among the leading group. While most services are offering transcription, video-clipping, file- and screen-sharing capabilities, and live video editing, tech-creators are developing machine learning programs that can transcribe audio, count video attendees, and provide insights into attendee engagement.
In the future, video conferencing software will be able to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to identify active speaking participants. Micro-LED displays will provide clearer, more vivid interfaces on both desktop and mobile screens. Leadership in the video conferencing space going forward will be determined by those providers that meet the ever-changing needs of the consumers who will continue to reward those that offer the best and most valuable solutions.