Zoom adds PBX capability to video platform to broaden collaboration capability

Zoom sees the expansion of the platform’s capabilities as broadening collaboration conversations for Zoom channel partners, who are a still small, but growing part of their go-to-market strategy.

At their Zoomtopia 2018 event in San Jose, Zoom Video Communications has announced a significant expansion of their video platform. The big addition is Zoom Voice, a cloud PBX system that will be available as an option to provide voice capability to the video communications suite. They have also announced an enhancement to their App Marketplace, as well as improvements to their Zoom Rooms conference room solution, and some upgrades to the user experience.

Founded in 2011, Zoom is a videoconferencing company whose communications platform was designed with a video-first focus.

“Our CEO came from WebEx, and built the platform with a video-first mentality for customers looking for a strong visual engagement from video,” said Laura Padilla, Head of Business Development and Channel at Zoom. “WebEx was built for PowerPoint sharing and VoIP, not for video. Our platform was built for video.”

It is primarily other desktop solutions like WebEx that Zoom competes against, however, rather than legacy hardware-based videoconferencing solutions.

“We complete against WebEx and Blueeans, and against Office deployments which utilize Teams and Skype, which some users consider to be ‘good enough’ for their needs,” Padilla said. “Basic chat solutions like Google Chat are fine for one-on-ones and simple interactions, but fail in more complex environments. We handle those kinds of environments, while also delivering easy-to-use simplicity because of the design of our architecture.”

Zoom’s business customers span the whole gamut from the very small to the very large.

“We have an online free version for one-on-one communication,” Padilla said. “For some customers, we are a mobility solution. We also have large enterprise customers like WalMart and Uber for whom we are able to scale at a very high rate.”

Most of Zoom’s business is direct, but it has several types of channels, and their channel business has been ramping up.

“We have traditional hardware-focused AV partners mainly around our Zoom Rooms,” Padilla said. These also include partnerships with hardware vendors like Dell, Logitech and Polycom.

“We also have licensing partners like CDW, SHI and Ingram Micro and Tech Data, and we have large software vendor partners like DropBox,” Padilla stated. “Today, our total channel business is only about 10 per cent of the whole, but we are increasing that.” To that end, the Zoomtopia event included a Partner Summit for the first time.

Padilla said that Zoom Voice is the most significant of the new announcements.

“That’s the big one,” she stated. “We built it in-house, as we have a lot of DNA in that space with our engineering teams, and it has undergone extensive beta testing with customers.” It provides support for inbound and outbound calling through the public switched telephone network [PSTN], to enable customers to replace their PBX solution and consolidate it within the Zoom platform.

“This is something that customers had been asking for,” Padilla said. “Skype has their phone offering as well, and that was something that Zoom didn’t have. We think it will be a significant addition for channel partners, because it offers them more openings to talk to customers, and allows conversations about collaboration to go in different directions.”

Zoom Voice will be sold as an optional add-on to the Zoom video communications suite, and is scheduled to be generally available in North America in the first quarter of 2019, with support for localized telephony services in 16 countries. The service will roll out globally over 2019.

Zoom also announced improvements to their App Marketplace, which brings together integrations built by Zoom and third-party developers, including Clara Labs, Egnyte, HubSpot, Hugo, Microsoft Teams, Otter.ai, Slack, and Theta Lake.

“We have enhanced our chat in the Marketplace,” Padilla said. “It’s redesigned, more user friendly, and has more features.”

The Zoom Rooms now have multi-share capability allowing multiple users to simultaneously share content on displays. On the Zoom Rooms Controller, users can also manage how the content is distributed across the room’s displays. Zoom is moving audio processing from hardware devices to its Zoom Rooms software. It is available on select microphones now, and will be expanded to support microphone arrays on hardware devices from providers such as Aver, DTEN, and Suirui. New management capabilities include remote Zoom Rooms rebooting, automatic optimization of Mac and Windows OS settings during installation, Windows MSI installer for mass deployment on Windows, and OAuth support for Office 365 calendar integration. The capability to start a Zoom Rooms meeting on mobile by clicking a button on their Zoom mobile app will be released by the end of 2018.

User experience enhancements to the core video platform include an automatic increase in the capacity of Large Meeting 200 to Large Meeting 500 at no additional cost, which will be available by the end of 2018. A new security feature embeds each VoIP user’s credentials/identity into their unique audio track, to enable audio leaks to be traced. This is also set to be available by the end of 2018. Finally, users can now control their Zoom meetings through their headset on some Jabra and Plantronics models, with more models and providers to follow.