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Microsoft, Cisco usher in new era of video conferencing interoperability

In this roundup of UC blogs, analysts discuss the future of video interoperability, Zoom's evolution in business communications and key announcements from Microsoft Ignite.

Interoperability between video conferencing systems has long been a challenge. Early on, H.323-based video systems required IT to stitch together disparate systems. More recently, popular software clients enable guests to connect to a video conference from their desktops.

But Microsoft and Cisco's announcement that the two unified communications vendors are working on direct guest access between their respective video systems is ushering in the next stage of video conferencing interoperability, according to industry analyst Tsahi Levent-Levi.

The video conferencing interoperability between Microsoft and Cisco systems is built on WebRTC. Most video conferencing vendors have used WebRTC for the past five years to provide browser-based guest access. Users could connect to a video service directly from a web browser without downloading additional software or requiring interoperability between video systems, Levent-Levi wrote in a blog.

The planned interoperability between Microsoft and Cisco takes WebRTC further by connecting their video systems. For example, a Cisco user could join a Microsoft Teams session as a guest directly from a Cisco Webex Room device using a web URL.

"This is a controlled environment for them and probably just a first step towards opening up the devices to 'any' WebRTC-based guest access," Levent-Levi wrote.

Read more about Levent-Levi's analysis of the history of video conferencing interoperability and its future.

Zoom's evolution reveals enterprise challenges

Zoom has evolved from cloud-based video conferencing to enterprise communications. By building on its core video service, Zoom has expanded into other areas of business communications and collaboration with Zoom Rooms, Zoom Phone and its investment in video hardware startup Neat.

"That's quite an ambitious leap," Frost & Sullivan analyst Roopam Jain wrote in a blog.

But, for Zoom's evolution to work, the company needs to expand its enterprise customer base aggressively. Zoom built its customers through its freemium model and has loyalty among SMBs, Jain wrote.

Zoom has partnered with other vendors that have strong enterprise backgrounds, such as Poly. But IT decision-makers in large enterprises want to invest in comprehensive portfolios, preferably from a single provider.

The challenge for Zoom is to meet those enterprise buyer needs with a broad partner program and global distribution strategy to compete against the likes of Microsoft and Cisco, she wrote.

Take a look where Jain wrote Zoom is addressing new market trends and where the company falls short on enterprise needs.

Microsoft advances Teams and Yammer capabilities

Microsoft continues to enhance its collaboration offerings with new features and improvements to Teams and Yammer. Aragon Research analyst Jim Lundy discussed his takeaways from Microsoft Ignite, the vendor's annual user conference.

The latest Microsoft Teams capabilities make the platform "the common unified client for most of Microsoft Office when it comes to collaboration and communication," Lundy said. These capabilities include private channels, multiple windows for multiple conversations, chatbot support and Outlook integration.

Microsoft has also reimagined Yammer by modernizing the collaboration tool and using office identity and profile capabilities, which support knowledge sharing and discovery. Lundy said he expects the redesign and updates will be well received by Yammer's enterprise customers.

Lundy said Microsoft is also building off its success with its Power BI business analytics system with updates to its Power Platform, which combines Power BI with development and workflow tools. Microsoft added automation and low-code capabilities with PowerApps, which enables organizations to build apps and automate workflows.

"Microsoft is playing for keeps here, and low-code providers and RPA [robotic process automation] providers should take notice," he said.

Check out the other Microsoft Ignite announcements on Lundy's radar.

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