Is Zoom IPO Making AV Mainstream?
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Author: Ernie Beck, CTS-D, Principal at Capture Design Group, LLC
I recently saw billboards for Zoom.us, in two different cities on different sides of the country. Not a big deal, right? But wait, since when does a videoconferencing company promote themselves in the mainstream? The answer; since the disrupting cloud-based videoconferencing company decided to change the culture of video collaboration. And riding that wave of disruption, this week Zoom launched into their IPO with initial shares listing for as high as 63% above initial projections. Wait, no, stop, AV is not supposed to be popular!
A little background here; anyone who knows me knows one of my biggest gripes the Pro-AV industry is the lack of visibility in the mainstream (I discussed on a podcast last year). Why do I still get blank stares when family and friends ask me "so what do you do for a living?". The Pro-AV industry has had a difficult time becoming mainstream because often times people don't connect with the technology on a personal and cultural level. This is where I think Zoom has started changing the game. They were even listed as one of Glassdoors National 2019's Best Places to Work up there with global powerhouse brands like Google, Facebook, Southwest Airlines, and Lululemon.
Quick disclaimer; as a workplace technology consultant I take very seriously the importance of remaining agnostic to platform or provider. Many of my clients use different types of videoconferencing tools (unified communication "UC" if you like them nerdy), from Skype to WebEx and everything in-between. At the end of the day, it's all about what work best for their enterprise regardless of any ongoing zeitgeist. But, I am also human, and therefore will recognize a standout among the pack when they emerge. I can't tell you how many client meetings I've walked into only to hear from the CIO how their videoconferencing or AV system experience has or is failing them. So it's nice when a platform has positive momentum behind it.
So how is Zoom making AV mainstream, when so many other AV/UC companies in years past have struggled? Here are my thoughts broken down a bit more.
The User Experience Equation
No, Ernie, not the UX buzz word! But it's true. Zoom has taken UX to the next level. Simplified call launching, logically mapped on-screen buttons, simple room reservations, they have thought about the entirety of the user journey. Oh, and their cloud-based architecture seems to work even in sketchy bandwidth environments. No expensive on-premise servers means reduced power usage in your facility, reduce rack space, and lower CapEx costs on large videoconferencing projects. T
he end-user experience improves, as does the network administrators user experience.
Everyone's Wants to be Their Friend in Hardware
The proliferation of Zoom Rooms can be attributed to the fact that Zoom is focused on their Software as a Service (Saas), not boxes. They let hardware manufacturers do what they do best, while finding ways to integrate with a variety of both off-the-shelf USB devices and professional videoconferencing endpoints. Gone are the days of "one provider to rule them all". Zoom works with devices from Apple, Logitech, Crestron, Extron, Poly, Cisco and so on.
Trendy in Commercial Real Estate
Companies are trading large executive conference rooms for smaller, more informal huddle spaces. They want to accommodate smaller, more agile teams in multiple different locations and were noticing the average meeting was occupied by 4 - 5 people. Zoom Rooms have filled this niche nicely with their flexibility in hardware options and licensing model. They even offer value-added features such as room scheduling and digital signage management for free with Zoom Room licensing.
Licensing Made Simple
Zoom happens to be one of the first companies that lets you start with a free license (unlimited 1:1 calling/ 40 minute cap on multi-party calls). If you like the product, you can grow into more licensing. Hate the product, and you've lost nothing. That's confidence. Their license-based only consumption model has been a large part of their success and proliferation. They've taken the hassle out of getting started, and then made it easy to scale.
Zoom just doesn't seem to have that dead-eyed conference phone pusher demeanor of previous videoconferencing companies. In fact, watching men in suits showoff the latest twenty thousand dollar VTC camera in a stark-white office still gives me the willies. In contrast, Zoom's CEO sets the tone for the company culture, which is evident at their yearly Zoomtopia user conference. You can tell they love what they do, and it shows in their product delivery. What other CEO of a billion dollar tech company is pouring coffee for guests at an annual conference?
To me this article is less about the Zoom bandwagon, and more about recognizing a company who is disrupting the videoconferencing space, and having fun doing it.