One of the things No Jitter, our companion media site, offers that you can't get many other places (if anywhere), is an article like the one UC analyst Brent Kelly recently posted that basically tells you everything you need to know about Microsoft's strategy for interoperation between its Teams platform and the wide variety of legacy and emerging endpoints for the enterprise. This is a long article, but it's incredibly rich in both objective facts, as well as Brent's informed judgments on the state of the art in this area.
I won't attempt to summarize the findings here, but something Brent wrote in the post's concluding section struck me. He hearkened back to the desire many in the industry had shared that WebRTC would mitigate some of the challenges enterprises faced as they attempted to wrangle a diverse environment of hardware and software, with the aim of making video meetings simpler and more ubiquitous.
Ah, WebRTC... remember WebRTC? A couple of years ago, Enterprise Connect's operations team had to break down the sliding walls of conference rooms to accommodate overflow crowds that wanted to learn about this technology, which looked like it was going to revolutionize real-time communications. I remember the hype-masters boldly asserting that there were four billion or so "WebRTC-ready clients" already deployed on desktops -- by which they meant that every Web browser on every device counted as their addressable market.
So whatever happened to WebRTC?
It seems as if WebRTC hype went the way of all hype, while the standard itself got sucked into the vortex of standards-body politics and vendor stubbornness that dragged out the process of getting it implemented across all Web browsers. And yet, as Irwin Lazar of Nemertes Research noted in this No Jitter post from earlier this year, WebRTC is, in fact, "all around us." He explained:
Most Web and video conferencing, as well as UCaaS, providers now offer WebRTC-based access to meetings. Developers often use WebRTC libraries within dedicated desktop and mobile apps to enable voice, video, and data sharing support. A small number of companies, largely in the hospitality and financial services space, offer click-to-call options through their websites, coupling browser information with incoming calls to allow a customer service agent to recognize a customer quickly and determine the likely reason for a call before answering.
Those are all useful things. But it turned out that people didn't really care about turning their browsers into, essentially, softphones. It wasn't a problem that needed solving: They could already choose from a constellation of other low-end, ready-to-hand video options, from FaceTime to Facebook to consumer Skype and more. The fact that those solutions didn't interoperate with each other was outweighed by the relative ease of using multiple such clients. Turns out a walled garden isn't such a bad thing if the wall is low.
In contrast, the other end of the spectrum is the way Brent described it: Feature-rich, business-grade multimedia collaboration experiences -- i.e., the opposite of a browser-based lowest-common denominator. Vendors like Microsoft are always going to argue that these sorts of experiences require a higher garden wall, to preserve the experience and the differentiation it gives their products in the market. WebRTC has a limited role to play in this vision.
A final note, since we're talking video (at least partly) here: I want to toss in another plug for our No Jitter Research survey on video in the enterprise. If you're an enterprise end user, I invite you to take the survey, and watch for the results when we publish them in a few weeks.