Microsoft, Others Join Video Collaboration Consortium

Microsoft's decision to join the OVCC gives the seven-month-old group, launched by the likes of Polycom, AT&T and Verizon, a vote of confidence.

Microsoft and three other companies are joining a consortium of vendors looking to greater business-to-business communication via telepresence and video collaboration technologies that can connect to any vendor technology and any network through any device.

Microsoft, Kathea, ACT Conferencing and Tata Communications announced May 1 that they were joining the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), a group launched in October 2011 by a number of networking, communications and video collaboration vendors, including AT&T, Verizon and Polycom. The addition of Microsoft, Kathea and Tata brings the number of members to 23.

The goal of the group is to create services that enable businesses globally to communicate through video calls on standards-based and proprietary video platforms alike. The first services are expected to launch later this year. Microsoft€™s addition as a board member is an important step for the organization, according to John Poole, vice president at OVCC and senior director of strategic business development for Polycom€™s Global Cloud & Service Provider Solutions Group.

€œMicrosoft€™s membership represents a significant vote of confidence in OVCC as the way to commercialize hosted UC services with Microsoft technologies,€ Poole said in an email to eWEEK. €œHow service providers will approach directories, calendaring, support for Lync, etc., will all be factored into the approaches being addressed by the OVCC. With the leverage of these Microsoft technologies, Polycom€™s integration with Microsoft will provide operators [service providers] with more cost-effective native solutions accelerating adoption of video by enterprises, SMBs [small and midsize businesses] and vertical markets.€

Video conferencing is becoming an increasingly popular business tool for increasing employee productivity and for reducing costs, such as travel expenses. Analysts with market research firm IDC said in a report in March that the global video conferencing market grew to about $2.7 billion in revenues in 2011, about a 20.6 percent jump over 2010. They expect revenues to jump to $3.2 billion in 2012, a rise of about 18.7 percent. Rich Costello, senior research analyst at IDC, said at the time that much of the growth last year was fueled by €œwell-defined video use cases across a variety of vertical market business segments, as well as the continuing decrease of cultural barriers to video acceptance within organizations.€

Going forward, the market also will be boosted by continuing integration of video and immersive telepresence technology with unified communications and collaboration applications, Costello said.

Polycom officials have said they expect the OVCC to offer alternatives to more expensive offerings, thanks to the addition of vendors such as Microsoft and Tata, which works with smaller service providers worldwide through its Global Meeting Alliance video exchange.

The video collaboration market is a dynamic one, with a wide range of larger and small vendors alike pushing offerings. Polycom last year quickly expanded their capabilities by buying Hewlett-Packard€™s video conferencing business, a move that will enable it to compete better with Cisco. Avaya is entering the fray with its purchase this year of Radvision.

Some smaller companies are finding a foothold by being a more flexible and less expensive option than the larger, more established players. For example, Vidyo has been able to leverage its VidyoConferencing suite of offerings to grow revenues by 82 percent in 2011.