Microsoft, Zoom, Vonage, More Pushed to Fix Pervasive Audio Issues in Video Meetings

The issue came up during the opening session of the Enterprise Connect conference.

Jeffrey Schwartz

September 28, 2021

4 Min Read
Microsoft, Zoom, Vonage, More Pushed to Fix Pervasive Audio Issues in Video Meetings

ENTERPRISE CONNECT — How often do your clients join video meetings where the mic or speakers fail, although they functioned fine moments earlier? It’s actually a common problem that even those with technical device management skills face. A prominent industry consultant on Monday challenged the leading players to fix it.

C-T Link CEO Jim Burton, who co-moderated the opening general session of the Enterprise Connect virtual conference, raised the issue. (Enterprise Connect and Channel Futures share a parent company, Informa.) Burton lamented that when he has a video meeting using one vendor’s platform, and then joins one on another vendor’s platform, suddenly the mic, speakers or camera don’t work. It turns out, the previous vendor’s app has taken over control of the device, Burton said.

“It creates a real problem,” said Burton, addressing the panel of top officials at Cisco Webex, Microsoft, RingCentral, BlueJeans by Verizon, Vonage and Zoom. Burton said each platform locks those device settings, which cause conflicts when jumping onto a different provider’s video meeting service.

“Are you willing to do something about it?” Burton asked. “Are you willing to go through and make some changes to your platform, so that you release these things so that we don’t have those kind of problems?”

Burton asked Scott Van Vliet, the corporate VP who leads Microsoft’s Intelligent Conversation and Communications Cloud (IC3) team, to answer first, addressing it from a Windows operating system perspective.


Microsoft’s Scott Van Vliet

“On Windows, audio devices are shared resources. And there’s a multiplexer on the device that actually brings audio together,” Van Vliet responded.

While he has more expertise with video, he said Microsoft wants to let multiple applications access a camera feed. The challenge is doing so without compromising security and privacy, Van Vliet explained.

“When you have your video on and your microphone on, you want to make sure that the application using it is the application you’re in,” he said. “Maintaining a lock on resources, especially a camera, I think is critical for the experience. But nevertheless, I think we can look into understanding how [we can make it] work.”

A Multi OS Problem

It will vary depending on different operating systems, Van Vliet added.

“For Windows, you’re going to have one set of experiences for the APIs that control the resources that our applications take advantage of, and on macOS you will have different experience,” he said. “And of course, iOS and Android mobile devices will have a different set of sandbox rules that apply to those operating systems in terms of access to the camera. So, for example, if you minimize your application on the device, it will mute your camera.”

RingCentral EVP of products and engineering Nat Nataragan said once Microsoft creates a protocol, his company will embrace it.


RingCentral’s Nat Natarajan

“Clearly, it’s not a great user experience today,” Nataragan said. “We are committed to making a great user experience on any platform. So, my commitment is as the OS vendors find protocols which are easy to follow, we will do so.”

Nevertheless, in many cases, such as releasing the mic, “isn’t an OS thing,” Burton said. “You locked up what you needed to do to make the call, but you can release them at the end. I know everyone needs to spend some time on it.”

Burton challenged the panelists to let him know within two weeks, how long it will take to address the issue. All said they will.

“I don’t think that we lock up the resources; I have to confirm that,” said Harry Moseley, Zoom’s global CIO.

Savinay Berry, Vonage’s EVP of product and engineering, said there’s more to providing a good user experience than just providing a seamless transition and security. It’s also things like battery life,” he said. “Imagine if you have three or four video streams now playing simultaneously on a mobile device, what that does to the overall battery life.”

Eric Spadafora, VP and general manager of BlueJeans by Verizon, said that the industry should try to improve interoperability.

“As an industry, interoperability remains a central point for us,” Spadafora said. “We’ll look into the discrete hooking-unhooking of calls. But I think that’s where I think all of us can work together to make sure that we’re providing that smooth platform.”

Want to contact the author directly about this story? Have ideas for a follow-up article? Email Jeffrey Schwartz or connect with him on LinkedIn.


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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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