Rob Arnold's Blog

Trends in Desktop Videoconferencing

08 Mar 2012 | by Rob Arnold
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Just before the turn of the New Year my colleague Roopam Jain (@Roopamjain) and I published a research report forecasting the adoption of software-based desktop videoconferencing among enterprise users. Login to read it here: Global Desktop Videoconferencing Market.

For the purposes of this report, Frost & Sullivan defines desktop videoconferencing applications as those that utilize software clients provisioned to PC or Mac computers. Such solutions include desktop videoconferencing applications that are integrated with broader unified communications and Web conferencing software, and purpose-built solutions. Purpose-built desktop videoconferencing applications may leverage client-server architectures (optionally including gateways, MCUs or other infrastructure), or be implemented as software-based solutions.

The scope did not include: Prosumer solutions, such as Skype; hardware-based endpoints such as executive videoconferencing endpoints, personal systems and video-enabled IP phones; or software clients provisioned to smartphones and tablets). All of these endpoints are covered in other Frost & Sullivan studies.

Several dozen developers and service providers, and approximately 200 enterprise decision makers users (many of them as part of our annual UC&C investment decisions survey) contributed to our study.

During the course of our interviews with leading developers a number of trends emerged.

  • Mobile is huge. A majority of customers and prospects are seeking to improve collaboration with mobile staff, to circumvent or reduce infrastructure upgrade requirements, and to augment fixed desktop station equipment via videoconferencing solutions smartphones and tablets as endpoints.


  • Scalable Video Coding (SVC) is being positioned as the panacea to reduce the bandwidth costs required to support real-time video communications solutions. However, there is still much work to be done in terms of SVC standards maturity and uniform adoption across different developers.


  • HD is expanding the use cases for videoconferencing. Higher resolution not only enhances the user experience, but the crisper/clearer images greatly improve the reliability and accuracy of remote diagnosis, trouble-shooting, demonstrations, and more.    


  • There is increased demand for B2B capabilities as companies look to strengthen relationships and improve collaboration with customers and partners, as well as to increase utilization of their videoconferencing technology investments for faster ROI.


  • Prosumer solutions (such as Skype, iChat, etc) are helping business users become more comfortable with videoconferencing. These experiences are helping to drive demand for more reliable, scalable and feature-rich solutions in the business place.


  • Enterprise-grade applications delivered from the cloud hold great promise to lower the barriers of adoption. Reduced risk, upfront cost and ongoing management/maintenance responsibilities offered by cloud-based services alleviate many of the traditional restraints of videoconferencing deployment by enterprises.    

From a demand perspective we determined that the drivers and restraints vary to a certain degree by industry, size and location of the organization as well as its business culture and the demographics of its workforce. Overall, the top drivers for adoption are cost reduction (travel avoidance, carbon offsets, etc) and the need to improve collaboration among distributed staff. The overall primary restraints are the unclear ROI for many types of organizations and the network upgrades required to support real-time video communications.

In our data collection we determined that purpose-built software clients account for only a small portion of the total installed base of desktop videoconferencing software clients. In fact, most business users today and in the future will access desktop videoconferencing as part of their web conferencing or unified communications solution.

Takeaway: desktop videoconferencing is now and will continue to be an important component of broader, tightly integrated communications solutions.