Video conferencing continues to improve
For many people, their first experience of video conferencing may have been using Skype.
Obviously originally built by highly-skilled developers, Skype always worked well, providing the functionalities to communicate through a computer over the internet, using voice, video and text.
It reached 100 million downloads quite quickly after its release in 2003.
It was bought by eBay for $2.6 billion in 2005 and eventually acquired by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5 billion.
Though it's gained a few rough edges since Microsoft started to assimilate it into its huge, sprawling operation, and integrate it into its Lync enterprise communications app, it's been quite effectively monetised and offered as Skype for Business.
Figures for earnings through Skype are not released by Microsoft, but according to Vator.tv, Skype is a “revenue-generating juggernaut”.
Bloomberg reports that Skype's revenues are almost $2 billion a year.
One thing Microsoft is good at is finding partners for its products, and in the latest one is with a company called StarLeaf.
StarLeaf is claiming to be the first to provide support “meeting room support” for Microsoft communications tools, which includes Skype of course.
StarLeaf says its “GTm” family of systems allows organisations which currently use Skype for Business to set up and run meeting room solutions that work seamlessly with both the platform.
Microsoft looks like it is planning to launch a unified communications platform which will provide meeting room solutions for the enterprise – and Skype, Lync and other tools will probably be packaged as one solution – “Microsoft Teams” – in the future.
Jonathan Williams, head of StarLeaf's Microsoft business unit, says his company's “absolute commitment” to user experience has allowed it to deliver “a simple and consistent meeting room environment – regardless of whether the system is joining a Skype for Business or a Microsoft Teams meeting”.
Williams adds: “As Microsoft delivers on its roadmap for Microsoft Teams, we will continue to deliver on our roadmap – to ensure that our customers continue to realise a return on their investment, while also receiving new features and advancements from both the meeting room itself, and from the essential meeting room management platform.”
“Our position and product direction is clear. No matter what course Microsoft's platform takes, we are fully committed to delivering enterprise meeting room and management solutions that work today and more importantly in the future.”
StarLeaf offers numerous integrations and APIs for various communications software, including Outlook, Calendar, Slack, AMX, Crestron and Extron.
One of the other unified communications technologies which StarLeaf integrates with is BlueJeans, a cloud video meeting technology with “exciting, new age capabilities”, according to a spokesperson.
BlueJeans claims to be the first cloud service to connect desktops, mobile devices and room systems in one video meeting.
The company recently redesigned its platform for “the modern workplace”.
Mark Strassman, chief product officer, BlueJeans, says: “We built the new BlueJeans experience by empathising deeply with our users and placing the focus of meetings where it belongs – on the people and ideas that propel business, collaboration and productivity.
“The new BlueJeans provides the most elegant and natural experience in the industry. Users are instantly productive and engaged while administrators have strong security, control and management capabilities for the enterprise.”
BlueJeans is apparently a favoured means of communication at social media giant LinkedIn, which by the way was acquired by Microsoft a couple of years ago for $26 billion.
Brian Frank, VP, operations at LinkedIn, says: “BlueJeans has been an integral part of the meeting and collaboration process at LinkedIn for years. The new experience is a big step for the industry, and exactly what we expect from the team at BlueJeans – management and control for administrators and a user experience that becomes second nature for everyone involved.”
Additionally, BlueJeans integrates with numerous other platforms and systems.
Alexa for Business allows meeting participants to dial into meetings with their voice and control BlueJeans by using Amazon Echo devices as a speakerphone.
Kaptivo integrates with BlueJeans to transform any whiteboard into a real-time collaboration tool to capture images and live stream content.
Voicera Eva, an artificial intelligence virtual assistant joins your meetings like other participants, listens, takes notes and provides highlights, full transcripts or recordings as well as action items that can be shared by email, Slack or into systems like Salesforce