Here’s What’s Going to Happen With Wireless Sharing/Wireless Collaboration Post-COVID-19

videoconferencing

By Adam Cox
Futuresource Consulting

It is not an exaggeration to say that the world as we know it will be forever changed once we emerge from the all-engulfing COVID-19, with one of the major shifts being how we choose to work effectively in the workplace moving forward. Ultimately, collaboration technology is at the center of this — a growing trend that has been magnified since businesses have needed to quickly adapt to a world of remote working.

As with any new technologies, early adoption has been dependent on awareness, and the awareness of videoconferencing has reached unprecedented heights over the past two months for both professionals and consumers alike. While videoconferencing has been rightly lauded, another key part of this communication revolution in the business world has been remote screen-sharing.

While screen-sharing is nothing new, awareness during the current pandemic has grown the technology from being a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have”, with people now having to screen-share on a daily basis when working with colleagues or presenting to clients.

The key difference here is of course that this is a remote setting, but the fact is that people are getting used to sharing their screens with a simple click. Some people will be happy to pass round a HDMI cable in a meeting room when things return to “normal”, but many people will have set strong expectations during lockdown that will continue for the long-term. This is a continuation of an existing trend illustrated in Futuresource’s recently published Enterprise AV End User research, which showed that the percentage of users attending meetings where digital content was never shared dropped from 50% in 2018, to just 5% in 2020.

2019 saw the Wireless Presentation System (WPS) hardware market continue to enjoy significant growth globally, increasing by 33% worldwide in terms of volume. However, 2020 has seen WPS hardware reach a crossroads. Decisions around WPS purchases are increasingly hinging on the inclusion of videoconferencing technologies, with the convergence of WPS functionality and videoconferencing technology recently seen across a wide range of product areas, not least in hardware solutions themselves.

This only increases the degree to which WPS products directly compete with parallel product areas that also feature VC technology, particularly collaborative displays and room hubs, with the line between WPS hardware and room hubs becoming increasingly blurred. The future will also see WPS becoming a more common feature in the video bar segment, particularly important for smaller meeting rooms and ad hoc meeting spaces. Currently, the addressable market is so vast that these products are only impinging on one another to a limited extent, but as the market reaches saturation, the level of competition will grow more intense.

Each product area has its own argument as to why it will come out on top. For collaborative displays, having everything – WPS, videoconferencing and the actual display – integrated into one product is an advantage for some, but the solution lacks the flexibility of having separate components is expensive and is unlikely to be fitted to rooms that already have displays.

Room hubs are attractive as they are also an integrated solution, but with an easy-to-use control panel and can be installed into rooms that already have displays fitted. They are also built with videoconferencing as a primary focus but can be inflexible in that they are dedicated to a single platform, e.g., MS Teams or Zoom. In addition to this, room hubs are comparatively expensive and so are most commonly found in medium and large meeting rooms.

Conversely, a key feature of the hardware segment is the availability of options that range from low cost to high end. This means that hardware solutions can be implemented in the smallest, most basic huddle room to the largest, most sophisticated boardroom. An increasing number of vendors are developing broader portfolios that allow end users to work with a single supplier, regardless of the room size.

WPS hardware will inevitably lose out to videoconferencing solutions to a certain extent. However, it will remain a strong category in its own right, particularly with the addition of videoconferencing technology in traditionally WPS-centric products. This allows enterprises to install equipment that will allow seamless collaboration and sharing of content whether people are in the same room or thousands of miles away.

Perhaps the strongest argument for the use of hardware WPS in a videoconferencing context is flexibility. Futuresource research shows that 82% of end users regularly start meeting room-based videoconference calls from a desktop or laptop PC i.e. Bring Your Own Meeting (BYOM). This allows for flexibility in the platforms used and minimal capital outlay. Hardware-based WPS are perfectly placed to take advantage of this.

These trends all existed in both the WPS and videoconferencing worlds before, but the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically accelerated the adoption of collaborative tools. In just three months, these technologies have changed how the world works and have set strong expectations for when we eventually return to the office.