Zoom Beefs Up Video Conferencing Strategy with New Partners

By Jude Chao | Jul 29, 2013 | Print this Page
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Cloud-based video conferencing provider Zoom Video Communications this week launched its "Works with Zoom" program, which allows partner companies to provide the free Zoom service bundled in with their existing products. 12 companies have announced their participation in "Works with Zoom," among them VTEL, which now offers an out-of-the-box Zoom conference room solution. The move marks Zoom's latest effort to position itself as the low-cost, HD-quality video conferencing alternative to both traditional, on-premises hardware solutions and the newer cloud- and software-based market contenders.

Zoom's differentiation strategy revolves largely around cost. Traditionally, high acquisition costs have created challenges to adopting and maintaining video conferencing solutions, and software-based solution vendors have also "traditionally been focused around very expensive solutions," Nick Chong, head of product marketing at Zoom, told me in a recent video conference. As an example, he cited the higher cost of comparable cloud-based video conferencing service Blue Jeans.

In comparison, Zoom offers both a free plan—limited to 40 minutes per 25-person meeting—and a business plan that costs $9.99 per host, per month, for unlimited meetings and video streams per meeting and includes nearly every feature of Zoom's call-for-pricing enterprise plan. The strategy seems to be working so far. In less than three months, Zoom has doubled its user base, which now "pushes 2 million participants at 4,000 businesses," Chong said. Now, with the new hardware partnerships, Zoom aims to put their solution in front of more business users than ever before.

The value proposition for technology partners is twofold. "Works with Zoom" allows partners to offer an additional free service with their products, and should users decide to upgrade from the bundled free service to Zoom's paid service, the partner gets a cut. Users, meanwhile, get a chance to try Zoom and see whether it works for their business needs.

According to a recent statement, "Works with Zoom" program partners Logitech for Business, Vaddio, Altia Systems, VDO360, Biscotti Inc., and Acoustic Magic will provide Zoom-bundled audio and visual equipment, including PTZ cameras and HD audio peripherals. HoverCam's high-resolution document cameras will enable document sharing in Zoom video conferences. Personify, whose technology embeds real-time video of speakers into desktop applications, will work with Zoom to enhance presentations in video meetings. KUBI, a Revolve Rebotics partner, offers a robotic tablet mount to allow conference participants to control their field of vision during Zoom video meetings. AVer's H.323 endpoints will enable Zoom meetings. And InFocus and VTEL will provide Zoom-optimized conference room displays and systems.

The Zoom partnership came at a perfect time for VTEL, according to Richard Ford, VTEL CEO. The company, which had previously produced H.320 and then H.323 room systems, "recognized the inevitability of software-based solutions and codecs several years ago and completely rearchitected our room-based system around a Windows 7 PC architecture," Ford said. That architecture provides an affordable platform for "best-of-breed video conferencing software," he added, naming Zoom as "far and away" the best of the bunch.

The end result of the partnership is a system—available in displays ranging from 42 to 70 inches—that plugs in and plays right out of the box, with optional pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera for classroom- and boardroom-caliber video quality.

VTEL Zoom room system

As software and cloud-based video conferencing solutions continue to make inroads into the enterprise collaboration space, Zoom hopes to get ahead of the pack. The hardware partnerships may give the company an edge. Zoom also plans to roll out gesture-, 3D-, facial recognition-, and motion-based video conferencing in the future.

When it comes to video conferencing, "this is going to change the game," Chong said.

ENP editor Jude Chao Jude Chao is executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Follow her on Twitter @judechao.