We’ve all been there: You prepare for a quick video call with someone only to discover his setup is different than yours. Maybe you’re on Skype and he’s on Google (s GOOG) Talk. Or maybe you have iChat (s AAPL), but he insists on Yahoo (s YHOO) Messenger. Frustrating, right?
Now imagine how complicated video calls can get when you translate this scenario into the corporate environment. Companies have been spending thousands — if not tens of thousands — of dollars on robust enterprise video conferencing solutions only to find themselves on islands with no bridge to the other side. Maybe a company bought into an expensive virtual conference room, then merged with another company that uses a completely different system. Or how about setting up a conference with someone outside your own company?
The video conferencing industry has to overcome these divisions if it wants to take advantage of its growth opportunities. That’s the gist of a new GigaOM Pro report titled Videoconferencing Unleashed: The Enterprise Videoconference Landscape, 2010 – 2015. Its author, analyst Lisa Pierce from the Strategic Networks Group, reports that the video conferencing industry has already seen its growth accelerating over the last few years. Previous estimates put the annual growth for enterprise teleconferencing at a modest 5.5 percent, but more recent findings point towards 29 percent growth per year, with pace picking up even more after 2011.
“Even so, a rosy future for the industry is not necessarily assured,” writes Pierce in her report. She notes that videoconferencing offerings from some of the biggest vendors — HP (s HPQ) and Cisco (s CSCO), to name a few — are not yet equipped with interoperability, though she underscores the importance of moving in such a direction.
From her report:
“Consider the history of mobile short message service (SMS). In North America, SMS interoperability was introduced by government fiat in the first quarter of 2002… The December immediately following carrier implementation of SMS interoperability, U.S. volumes had grown by over 305 percent (fourth quarter, 2002). One year later, growth exceeded 721 percent of pre-interoperability volumes. In a world where major barriers have been eliminated to a “ready” market, this is the kind of rapid growth that’s possible.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we need the government to step in and tell Cisco how to run its video conferencing business. However, vendors should take notice and move towards interoperability — or other companies will do it for them. GigaOM Pro predicts that revenue of so-called video exchange operators, which enable video conferencing users to talk across service operator boundaries, will more than double in the next four years.