Video Conferencing: There's a Mobile App for That

Find out why mobile video collaboration is on the rise in 2014 and the ways you can profit from it.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

January 16, 2014

8 Min Read
Video Conferencing: There's a Mobile App for That

Kelly TealThe BYOD blitz within the enterprise not only allows employees to work from anywhere, it also enables the use of video for meeting with colleagues and customers. As a result, collaboration suppliers say they see increased interest from organizations wanting to provide video conferencing that works across PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets, and that provides capabilities such as quality of service that consumer services such as Skype cannot. Indeed, mobility is, according to suppliers, driving overall collaboration adoption among end users because professionals expect to be able to work together from any device. For channel partners, this means the chance to make more money from existing users by supporting mobile video collaboration, and, of course, to deploy collaboration from the ground up within organizations that have not done so. (See table, Collaboration Providers’ Mobile Video Options.)

The global workforce has gone mobile and end users now expect to be able to connect to their companies’ collaboration tools from mobile devices. To that point, 34 percent of respondents to a March 2013 survey fielded by Wainhouse Research for Polycom Inc., said they access video conferencing from a tablet, while another third (33 percent) said they do so from a smartphone.

September 2013 research from Gartner Inc. paints a similar picture. Over the next three to five years, the research firm said businesses will use mobile collaboration to empower workers, make them more productive and engage customers in better interactions. Plus, Gartner expects most collaboration applications will be equally available on desktops, mobile phones, tablets and browsers by 2016.

“In the past, collaboration on mobile devices meant interaction through wireless messaging and voice calls,” said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner. “Today, smartphones and tablets have larger screens, touch-based user interfaces, location support, broad network connectivity, enhanced cameras and video support, voice over IP, and so on. Such features enable a range of applications both traditional and new for employees to better communicate, collaborate, socialize, create and consume content.”

This all adds up to a global enterprise video market that is expected to grow from $11.21 billion in 2013 to $35.57 billion in 2018, for a compound annual growth rate of 25.9 percent, according to an August 2013 forecast from MarketsandMarkets.

Collaboration suppliers say 2014 is the year of opportunity for channel partners. “A lot of organizations spent time evaluating offerings and the market in 2012 and 2013,” said Mark Cray, executive vice president of global sales and market for AGT, a provider of managed and cloud video solutions. “Now that we know mobile and the consumerization of IT have made their mark in the business world, adoption [of mobile video collaboration] will only increase.”


And firms concerned about factors such as video quality, reliability and security will turn to enterprise-grade offerings rather than Google Hangouts or Skype, sources said. “Video conferencing users expect the same type of video interaction from their mobile phones and tablets as from desktops or laptops,” said Frank Gorkis, vice president of North America channel sales for collaboration service provider Arkadin. “As quality improves, demand will follow.”

There are a couple of ways partners can profit from mobile video collaboration. For partners selling traditional software platforms, the mobile app is included with the license and is not an upcharge. As one example, Avaya‘s Scopia platform’s bundled pricing includes server licensing and support for room system, desktop and mobile connectivity. While partners won’t make extra money from mobile apps themselves, they can make money from providing infrastructure required to support mobile clients, said Bob Romano, global vice president of marketing for Avaya.

The traditional approach is to sell the server that hosts the conferencing software, plus the endpoints and installation of room or telepresence systems. While the customer owns the platform and gets unlimited use, when more capacity is needed, the partner can sell more server ports and can charge for providing that service. “For partners selling customer premise installations, they will sell more video infrastructure,” Romano said.

Another approach is to become a hosted provider. “Many of our partners have decided to provide a video conferencing service themselves to their customers and charge them a recurring monthly fee,” said Romano. In other words, Avaya partners host the Scopia solution within their own data centers and provide virtual conferencing rooms, including to mobile devices, on a monthly rate. “This allows Avaya resellers to be able to offer customers a simple, hosted cloud solution in addition to premises solutions,” Romano said. “In some cases customers will take advantage of both, allowing them unlimited use of their own system but a cloud solution for peak capacity or overflow situations.”

Meanwhile, for partners teaming with Unify, the former Siemens Enterprise Communications, revenue opportunity arises with server sales and the subsequent need to integrate them. “Our mobile conferencing and collaboration apps need centralized servers in customer data centers for session initiations between mobile users,” said Marc Aghili, senior vice president of global indirect channels for Unify. In these instances, while the financial value of the deal may not increase directly as a result of mobile video, it does increase from the associated opportunities and business value.

With some SaaS-based video conferencing providers, however, mobile video app sales themselves can boost revenue. AGT, as an example, lets its partners white-label its platform and set pricing however they choose, even charging a monthly subscription fee for mobile apps to earn recurring revenue. For example, AGT partner Pipeline Video Solutions charges $49.95 per user per month for unlimited video calls, with no per-minute or set-up fees, and free access to the mobile video app. That price also includes three free hours of recording storage an extra 10GB, or 25 hours of storage, costs $19.99 per month.

Blue Jeans, too, said partners earn a percentage of revenue by selling its services via user license, concurrent connections (virtual ports) or as a site-wide license. There is no incremental fee attached to the mobile video app. Because Blue Jeans allows its partners flexible selling models, partners can make more money based on clients’ increased usage but it depends on the type of plan the customer has chosen. For instance, if the customer pays by the minute, then partners earn revenue by minutes of use. If the end user instead has opted for an unlimited use plan, then it’s paying by user license, connections to the service or a sitewide license. In these scenarios, partners don’t make money off minutes. “We’re finding customers don’t like the traditional metered models and prefer to pay a user license with unlimited use,” a Blue Jeans Network spokeswoman said. “Adoption takes off when there isn’t worry about an increase in usage or going over an allocated number of minutes.”

The more video collaboration is used, “the bigger the revenue opportunity for the partner,” said Aspen Moulden, channel marketing manager for Blue Jeans. “Increased use and adoption also typically means an increase in the use of the conference room systems. We’ve seen many partners able to sell more endpoints after a customer adopts Blue Jeans.”

And while ArkadinVideo is delivered as a service, due to a partnership with Vidyo, partners don’t make incremental revenue from mobile app sales. “License sales is the primary way by which partners make money from ArkadinVideo,” an Arkadin spokeswoman said. “In the event partners work on customer room deployments … a partner could build a profit.”

Aside from selling more collaboration platforms and related infrastructure, channel partners have additional revenue opportunities in supporting mobile collaboration, including selling devices, connectivity and managed services. “Its about a complete solution portfolio,” Romano said. “Customers are asking for a solution that supports conference rooms, desktop and mobile clients, and the network infrastructure and management applications to effectively deploy, manage and support it.”

For example, organizations implementing collaboration with mobile video capabilities also will need:

  • Up-to-date smartphones and tablets. Most mobile video conferencing apps use the H.264 standard to run HD video, thus requiring the latest mobile devices and operating systems. For example, older iPhones won’t work. They need to be the 4 or newer and feature recent iOS updates.

  • Connectivity. Mobile video conferencing does an organization no good if the proper network is not in place to support it. First, make sure the wireless voice and data is available in all regions where users might travel. Also, be sure the bandwidth connected to each office facilitates Wi-Fi for dual-mode devices. It also must be up to par for multiple concurrent users. And if employees travel outside of particular regions, their devices will need to work with a range of carriers.

  • Device/life cycle management. Oversight includes device provisioning, moves/add/changes, remote wiping, end-user app licensing and voice minutes usage.

For partners, then, the chance to profit by supporting mobile video collaboration also includes margins on device deals, recurring revenue from network services contracts and fees from professional and managed services. Blue Jeans’ Moulden: If you think in terms of the traditional approach to the channel selling video conferencing systems for conference rooms, and now think in terms of the channel enabling each person within an organization to have their own video-enabled smart device, the potential is staggering.”


Of the companies that responded to Channel Partners’ interview requests, only one, Blue Jeans Network, has incorporated WebRTC support into its collaboration platform. WebRTC enables browser-to-browser collaboration without the need for plug-ins. However, not all browsers work with WebRTC. Because of that, Blue Jeans has created a plug-in that lets anyone on those browsers join a meeting, but a native app is not reality just yet. Indeed, vendors are waiting for WebRTC to be able to accommodate capabilities including content sharing, layouts, security and bandwidth management. They’re excited about WebRTC’s possibilities and its promise of opening up video collaboration to billions of people around the world but, for now, there are enough absent functions that they are holding out.

Kelly Teal is senior editor of Channel Partners.
Twitter: @kellymteal

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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