Video conferencing is about to get commoditized.
While the video conferencing and telepresence was a $3.2 billion market in 2013, according to Infonetics, the market seems set to shrink as individuals and companies turn to free options like Skype and Google Hangouts. Skype stole an early march on this low-end video market, but my money is on Google to win it long term.
The reason is clear: Convenience.
Video Conferencing Takes A Beating
The video conferencing market has been growing at a 5% clip each year. But things are starting to get dicey.
Immersive telepresence sales have been plummeting over the years, dropping nearly 40% just a year ago. Even video conferencing has been 10% lower than vendors like Cisco had been projecting, as ZDNet’s Larry Dignan reported last year.
It’s about to get worse.
Google sent shockwaves through the video conferencing world by announcing a $1,000 Chromebox for Meetings, which gives enterprises a cheap-and-good enough solution for video conferencing. But the far cheaper and also “good enough” solution costs exactly $0 and is also provided by Google. It’s called Google Hangout, and it comes free with every Internet connection.
Most people—indeed, most companies—don’t need high-end video conferencing. Not most of the time, anyway. Often enough, we simply need person-to-person video conferencing, for which Microsoft’s Skype or Google Hangouts is far more convenient.
Google: More Than Just A Hangout
While I have used Skype for years for IM, voice and video to interact with international colleagues, I still find that Google is a more natural starting place. Skype is a separate service that I need to get friends, families and colleagues to download. Google is already built into their workflow. At least, their personal workflow.
Two years ago Google’s Gmail surpassed Microsoft’s Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail with consumers. Even Hotmail holdouts like my mother-in-law have gravitated to Gmail.
Once there, the step to using Hangouts is very, very small.
Within my company, we have used a number of up-and-coming video conferencing services, from BlueJeans to Vidyo. But what gets used most often is actually Google Hangouts. Why? Because with one click I can add a video conference to a calendar invitation. (We use Google for email, calendaring, document storage/collaboration and more.) Yes, it helps that Hangout offers great quality video, but the overriding reason it gets used is that it’s convenient.
Again, there are different ways to evaluate a video conferencing solution. As with cameras, though, the best video conferencing system is the one you have with you. Google Hangouts is always with us, particularly as more of us move to Google for mail and other services.
Lead image by Flickr user Wesley Fryer, CC 2.0