Recent announcements from the likes of Facebook and Google are giving us a glimpse into the future of video communications. This morning, Facebook announced the integration of Skype video chat into the Facebook client, simplifying the video chat experience for its 750 million users. Last week, Google announced Hangouts, the first free multi-party consumer video chat, as part of the Google+ launch.
What does this mean for the video industry?
1. The convergence of social network and communication platforms. A well-matched pairing, this will allow users to simplify and merge their contact lists – streamlining updates and better managing their groups. It is as valuable on the consumer side (Facebook friends/Skype buddies) as it is on the business side (Outlook contacts/Lync calls).
2. The emergence of global communication platforms that span consumer and business realms. Think about the reach of a potential integration between Skype/Facebook/Microsoft Lync or between the Google+ Hangouts and GTalk. The Google platform could be further enhanced by Google’s decision to build real-time communications in the Chrome browser, enabling developers to build on top of an open source video communication platform. These platforms could encompass 1 billion to 2 billion users, becoming the de facto telecom services of the future.
3. A focus on solving today’s simplicity and cost of use hurdles. There will be increased pressure to provide voice, video and sharing capabilities for free, at least on the consumer side. That already built Skype’s success (cheaper voice minutes, free 1:1 video) and Google upped the ante with free multi-party video. But what excites me most about these new services is the ease of use. Video chat is now built right into your social network (no separate application, no separate contact list) and ultimately will be built right into the applications you use and want to connect from.
Logitech is fortunate to count Skype, Microsoft and Google as its top partners. We will continue to partner closely with their platforms to provide the best communication experience. We were the first to announce HD webcams to enable HD video chat on Skype, we are the only one-stop UC shop provider on the Microsoft platform with the combination of our LifeSize meeting rooms systems and Logitech webcams and headsets, and we were the first to announce living room calling for Google TV.
Video chat still needs to become as simple as a phone call to be truly ubiquitous, and these announcements go a long way toward moving us in that direction.