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It’s been a decade since Cisco dove into the video market with its immersive telepresence product, an expensive high-end offering driven by a couple of propositions: that video would soon be the “new voice,” i.e., the default medium for real-time communications; and that ultra-high-quality video, staged in elaborate, matching room environments, was the future of video. Along the way, all of this bandwidth-intensive video traffic would also create demand for bigger, faster switches and routers, which wasn’t entirely a coincidence when you looked at things from Cisco’s perspective.

Ten years later, video may not be the new voice, but it’s not far off. Driven by strong consumer adoption and by the declining cost of hardware and software, video meetings have become an everyday occurrence for many enterprise users. And the growing importance of video is on display in the results of No Jitter’s just-released research on the topic, which my colleague Beth Schultz summarizes in this slide show.

In the survey, 82% of respondents’ enterprises were using video, and 84% of respondents called video either important or very important to their enterprises. Beyond that top-line finding, I was struck most by what the survey tells us about that second point I mentioned above, regarding video quality. It wasn’t just that Cisco was promoting high-quality video; the industry as a whole tended to focus on video quality over the past 10 years: The release of a new codec or video standard tended to be hailed as a significant event; and companies often ran a dedicated IP network just to carry their video traffic.

Our survey -- as well as much anecdotal evidence -- suggests that the focus has moved from the quality of the video stream itself, to the quality of the end user’s experience of the video meeting as a whole. Our survey respondents placed ease of use factors like click to join at the top of the list of decision factors when evaluating a video system, followed by support for content sharing and collaboration. Likewise, on the list of top challenges for video communications and collaboration systems, respondents cited complexity of in-room systems and inconsistency of experience across different devices at the top of the list.

People seem to be coming around to the idea that, as annoying as bad-quality video can be, video quality is a moot point if users won’t use the system in the first place because it’s too hard to get the meeting started. We’ve seen most of the vendors responding to this demand and starting to come out with features that let users start a conference with a single click, or even be joined to the meeting automatically when they enter a room and the system identifies them by their mobile device. The next generation will see video systems that can use facial recognition to track how many (anonymized) people participate, and can link to calendaring and room scheduling systems to ensure that the scarcest resources -- meeting room real estate and end users’ time -- are used as efficiently as possible.

You’ll see the next generation of video systems at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2019. I’m delighted that we’re once again partnering with the leading analyst in the video field, Ira Weinstein of Recon Research, to produce a Video track that will cover the major trends and help you understand how to advance your company’s video estate.