Microsoft Offers Glimpse of Its Vision of Video Conferencing Future

Microsoft signals its future enterprise video conferencing strategy and adds a possible new wrinkle to the multibillion-dollar LinkedIn deal.

Microsoft video conferencing future

With software like Skype for Business and its Surface Hub hardware offering, Microsoft is already a part of a video conferencing market long dominated by Cisco and Polycom. But where is the software giant planning to go next?

A new blog post from the Office team hints at Microsoft's product strategy as the company works to capture more of the growing market for remote conferencing solutions.

Earlier this year, Frost & Sullivan released a report stating that the Web conferencing software and services market would grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.4 percent, reaching $3.6 billion in 2020. By comparison, vendors hauled in $2.41 billion last year.

On the hardware side, Cisco Systems, Polycom, Huawei and other video conferencing hardware makers have proven successful in reversing the declines of years past. In March, IDC revealed that the enterprise video conferencing equipment market jumped 22.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015 on a quarter-over-quarter basis, and 2.4 percent year-over-year, hitting $627.5 million.

Exploring the future of video conferencing technologies, Microsoft envisions virtual gatherings that incorporate social media, app integrations and augmented reality, catering to Millennials in the workplace.

Citing a 2013 study from Redshift Research and Cisco, Microsoft's staffers noted in the blog post that more than half (54 percent) of young executives "showed interest in customizing the viewer's experience with social media sharing tools. Twenty-one percent would prefer real-time language translation and pop-up bubbles that provide LinkedIn and Salesforce information on meeting participants."

Microsoft grabbed headlines earlier this week when the Redmond, Wash., software giant announced it was acquiring LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2 billion. While executives on both sides of the deal focused on the possible integrations between the massive professional social network and Microsoft's Office 365 and Dynamics business software offerings, Weiner suggested that some LinkedIn-powered functionality may one day wend its way to other products, including Windows and Skype, the latter of which provides Internet-based voice and video communications services for both consumers and businesses.

Skype has also emerged as a showcase for Microsoft's real-time translation technology. The technology supports seven languages in voice and video calls and 50 languages while using the software's instant messaging capabilities.

Microsoft also suggested that augmented- and virtual-reality solutions can play an important role in virtual meetings.

"By wearing a headset like the HoloLens, which combines both virtual and augmented reality into one experience, meeting participants can all sit in the same room together, no matter where they are physically located," blogged the company. "This is accomplished via holograms that can be viewed through the headset."

HoloLens, Microsoft's Windows 10-powered augmented-reality headset, is capable of overlaying video, images and 3D visuals over a user's physical surroundings. Today, the hardware is subject to limited availability (developers can grab one for $3,000), but in the near future, Microsoft thinks workers will use HoloLens to conduct meetings where they can better detect non-verbal cues and collaborate on interactive projects in purpose-built virtual environments.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...