Cloud-Based Interop: It’s Finally How It Should Have Been… Or Is It?

Earlier this month at Microsoft Ignite, Microsoft announced that soon Microsoft Teams, the company’s web based video meeting and productivity applications, would be natively compatible with Zoom and later WebEx. If you missed this part of the story, rAVe founder Gary Kayye wrote about it here and it’s been a very popular article, especially in the LinkedIn business community.

I think it’s an amazing announcement. Being in this industry for 17 years, I have one comment and perhaps one word of caution.

First, the comment —

What took so long???

Videoconferencing seems to be the slowest communication platform to adopt cross-platform compatibility. Sure, in the beginning, when there was barely enough bandwidth to carry video reliably, proprietary ecosystems assured connectivity and transmission. But bandwidth has not been the issue here for quite some time.

Can you imagine if the cell phone manufacturers had deployed similar strategies?

If cell phones mirrored the original hard codec environments, communications would’ve required proprietary hardware. iPhones would only be able to call other iPhones. Samsung phones could call Samsung phones, etc. If you wanted to call someone with an LG from either of those, no dice. I wonder how well that would’ve went over?

If they mirrored cloud based platforms, you would only be able to call in network. Verizon customers can call Verizon customers, but if the person you want to talk to is on ATT, again, no dice, unless of course they wanted to download a special app for some type of interop outside of their platform. Yeah, sounds like a great idea.

It’s honestly surprising that VTC has gained as much traction as it has given the current state of interop between platforms and the amount of friction in the system needed to create some kludge back-door combination of links, apps and downloads.

So with the Teams announcement (which is honestly just as much a Zoom announcement and a WebEx announcement as it is a Microsoft one), I say… FINALLY!

Now a word of caution

Remember 2013? Microsoft had integrated Skype into Windows as a standard feature and apparently this was what the world had needed for so long to accelerate VTC adoption. Microsoft was going to run the table and dominate the world with Skype given it was installed on machines in every company in the world. Crestron hit the AV market hard with RL2 as the only smart solution given the Skype footprint. Hmmm. What happened there?

When Microsoft changed directions under pressure from Slack adoption to create the Teams platform, they effectively bricked every RL2 install ever done. The patches never worked and users are now scrambling to update to new hardware to meet the next messiah of VTC.

My point? Microsoft has not shown itself to be the unlock for ubiquitous AV yet. Skype was flipped to Teams, causing a lot of issues downstream. The SurfaceHub was slow to ship and has already moved on to V2, which is also rolling slowly. Who really knows how, when or for how long the Teams, Zoom, WebEx relationship will work out?

In the spirit of optimism and common sense, I really hope it does. More importantly, for the people utilizing VTC everyday, it’s an absolute must.