Microsoft and Cisco’s Missed Opportunity
by Betsy Burton
I watched in awe as my family members, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews all navigated Zoom during a family gathering. Most of them had never done web-conferencing or heard of Zoom before four weeks ago. They were sharing pictures, drawing for each other, and playing with their background views with ease. I realized that Zoom is capturing a whole generation of future business leaders.
In this blog, we explore the opportunity Cisco and Microsoft have missed by not making their video conferencing free or cheap to the huge numbers of people sheltered-at-home.
People Are Using Zoom
Four generations of my family met remotely due to the risk of coronavirus contagion and our need for social distancing. Among my family, a university professor and a math teacher are both teaching their students via Zoom, as are all their peers. Several family members who work for large businesses are using Zoom to connect to their teams and managers.
The reality is, despite security concerns, people are using the Zoom online meeting solution to connect with family, friends, and with their businesses. Why? Because they can use a time-limited Zoom meeting for free or pay a small cost to sign up for additional services.
Now, granted, this consumer and smaller business user has classically not been the primary target market of either Cisco or Microsoft for video conferencing (The Aragon Research Globe™ for Web and Video Conferencing, 2020). However, because of this crisis event, the number and diversity of people using video conferencing is going up dramatically, even with security and privacy concerns.
And they will remember what they used during this crisis (Your Reputation Is Being Defined During This Crisis).
The Student Today Is a Leader in the Future
Many technology and service providers have classically segmented their consumer, SMB (small-medium size business), and enterprise-class buyers. This works in many cases, such as business applications, computing systems, and large networks. However, in this case, there is an entire generation that is learning to use a personal productivity tool by both learning the technology itself and by learning the new behaviors that come with it. These people will be the leaders of tomorrow.
We need only look back on the evolution of the iPhone as evidence of the long-term impact of these behavioral changes. Over five years, the iPhone evolved dramatically from a largely consumer device to a critical business tool.
If people use collaboration, communications, and personal productivity tools in their personal life, they will want to use these in business as well. Remember instant messenger, texting, etc.?
Users Will Demand Video Conferencing After the Coronavirus Crisis
Personal productivity tools can be a significant channel to the enterprise, particularly during a behavioral shift that drives adoption.
- An employee of a large enterprise that uses video conferencing to connect during this crisis is going to want this tool in their business once they go back to the office.
- Students will enter the workforce and expect this form of communication to be the norm.
I remember a CIO at an XL manufacturing organization who tried to block instant messaging after the attacks on 9/11. He said there were just too many security holes with it. Within minutes of him blocking it, he had managers and employees banging at his door. He immediately had to open it back up and figure out how to make it part of their technology portfolio.
It’s Not Too Late to Get Into the Game
There are known security and privacy issues with Zoom. And, this market is getting increasingly competitive. This is an opportunity for another leading web conferencing provider to gain market share with this potential audience.
Cisco, Microsoft, Fuze, and Google should not discount this audience or miss this opportunity. Thinking about this market using classical market classifications will cause you to miss the opportunity. (Note, many providers have offers for customers during COVID-19).
This crisis calls for technology service providers (TSPs) to think differently. Look for opportunities to enhance users’ experiences with video and voice analytics, workplace tools, and AI-enabled learning. Consider opportunities to bring in video sharing for consumers and small businesses; ensure you’re not pricing them out of your market.
Over 283 million people in the US (more than 80% of the population) are either being urged or ordered to stay at home. These are employees of large and small organizations, students/future leaders, and families.
What they use for video conferencing, collaboration, and communication during this crisis will follow them back into the workplace once this crisis is over. It will not all translate into market share adoption, but it will have a significant influence.
If you are a TSP, you must take this opportunity to rethink your business strategy, your business goals, outcomes, and your business model. Make sure your pre-pandemic strategy isn’t keeping you from seeing new opportunities.
If you are struggling to redefine your business during the coronavirus crisis, join our free webinar where we will discuss six key strategic planning activities people, businesses, and governments must all engage in.