In the wake of one of the largest vendors (Extron) pulling out just a few years ago, it was a sign of strength to have such a global giant put their stake in the ground at InfoComm. Perhaps not since Cisco acquired Tandberg and then arrived in Las Vegas about four years ago has there been so much buzz about one manufacturer showing up.
So what is all of the hype about?
In terms of the world of audiovisual, which is the front and center of the InfoComm community, Microsoft really has two products that we encounter regularly in our go to market efforts: Lync and Skype.
Lync is its collaboration platform that was really born as a messaging client and over time evolved into a full suite of collaboration products including VoIP, Video and Presence capabilities.
Skype is best known as a disruptor to the InfoComm community, as it has littered the market with video awareness but really provided limited (if any) means for monetization.
With Lync being a well-established platform and Skype serving such a limited purpose to the InfoComm crowd, I ask again, why all the hype?
Microsoft Arrives, But I Think It Is Too Late
Over the past three-to-five years there has been a movement in the tech community that has drawn conferencing out of boardrooms and into the convenience of our homes, cars (not driving of course) and other private spaces.
Moreover, our mobile devices, tablets and other thin clients have found new meaning as collaboration tools that connect us to others around the world with video, content and a level of flexibility that would have seemed impossible even 10 years ago for video users.
The real solution that integrators have needed has been a universal connector to integrate Skype into an array of other conferencing applications. From collaboration suites like WebEx to full-fledged telepresence, what has long been needed is a way to connect the Skype user to these calls essentially opening up collaboration from the lowest common denominator on up.
While by itself, this solution may not fix the low end of the market and their pervasive use of free conferencing, but as a tool for connecting businesses with their entire ecosystem via video there may not be a solution that would provide more flexibility. Such a solution would open up many doors for integrators to sell more hardware-based codecs and enterprise-grade desktop solutions because it would provide the peace of mind to buyers that all of those they seek to connect with via video would have easy access that doesn’t trivialize the investments already made.
Um, Have We Gotten To Why They Are Here?
Sadly, the answer to why they are here is less than compelling. In fact, it sounds like mindless PR fodder.
According to one Microsoft executive (paraphrase), we are here to learn more about this group (InfoComm) and we believe that we need to pay attention to what this group is doing.
Now those words aren’t verbatim, but in short they are the public facing rationale of Microsoft as to why they showed up this year.
No new products, no exciting announcements, just a booth, some partner products, and a whole bunch of hype.
As far as I can tell, the arrival of Microsoft at InfoComm isn’t some epic development. It is a mere distraction, a PR point and, for most a waste, of time. While this may not be the most popular opinion, I stand by it and believe integrators at the show are best served focusing on education, convergence (I know, I know) and the monumental shift that our industry will continue to face in the coming years as technology is disrupted on a daily basis.