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I don't know who first made bold to assert, "Video is the new voice." I want to say... Oscar Wilde? He said a lot of memorable things. In any case, we've been hearing it for a long time in enterprise communications. It might finally be coming true.

That was one of the impressions that I got in following the coverage of Zoomtopia, the event put on last week by (naturally) Zoom Video Communications, the red-hot cloud video provider. In a No Jitter post Nemertes Research's Irwin Lazar made it clear that Zoom is challenging the way enterprises think about communications.

In providing five takeaways from the event, Irwin notes that the company's relatively new Zoom Phone service is growing, and he describes the way that Zoom Phone changes the communications equation in enterprises that adopt it alongside the video service. "Zoom's differentiator is simple: native integration with the existing Zoom Meetings client, providing an ability for customers to eliminate separate phone system applications and platforms," Irwin writes. "In our research, we note that as companies shift to using apps like Zoom for their internal and external communications, they decrease the need for a separate phone system."

That sounds a lot like video becoming the new voice. Now add the usual caveats: This isn't a flash-cut. The PSTN remains the lowest-common-denominator, fail-safe channel for reaching customers and others outside the enterprise, as well as the network of last resort for internal communications. Few large enterprises are starting with a clean slate, so they have to take into account their users' existing behaviors and their companies' legacy installed bases.

In other words, video doesn't cancel out voice-only communications, so that no one ever uses voice-only again. But when the enterprise thinks about its default communications platform, it's more likely to be focusing on video; the voice piece is secondary. So the position of the two modes is reversed from the legacy world, where voice was the default and video a secondary feature, useful in some scenarios.

An enterprise that's thinking strategically about how its users adopt technology and how they collaborate is probably thinking about the relative importance of voice and video today. This Wall Street Journal article provides some interesting anecdotes and perspectives about whether voice-only communications can make a comeback among younger generations. I'd argue that the article's subhead overstates the case: "What if people started using their smartphones to actually speak to each other again?" Smartphones are actually the one device that—despite the WSJ subhead—many people do regularly use for voice-only communications. There's still no shortage of people walking around with a phone pressed to the side of their head or a Bluetooth headset stuck in their ear, chattering away.

Compare that to landline office telephony: It's no longer surprising when enterprise organizations tell us that they at least considered eliminating all desk phones when planning their next communications deployment.

Why shouldn't video—or more accurately, visual communications, including meetings that use desktop sharing and other features—become the new voice? It's an idea whose time may finally have come.

Eric Krapf
GM & Program Co-Chair Enterprise Connect & WorkSpace Connect
Publisher, No Jitter

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