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No Slowing Zoom on Portfolio Enhancements

Six months since going public, Zoom Video Communications kicked off its annual customer and partner conference today, loaded up with a full bag of new capabilities for its video-first UC platform, integration portfolio, and meeting rooms.
As the UC market continues along its unprecedented evolution, Zoom sees the future of this industry  in the convergence of conferencing and phone systems for one consistent front-end experience, said Eric Yuan, Zoom CEO, from the keynote stage at Zoomtopia. And that makes Zoom’s mission to “boldly go where no one has gone before … in service of our customers,” promised Oded Gal, the company’s chief product officer, playing off the event’s theme. 
Zooming in on Rooms
A case in point is the addition of purpose-built Zoom Rooms appliances developed by videoconferencing hardware providers for use in conjunction with Zoom video meetings. Initial partners include Poly (formerly Plantronics and Polycom), which introduced two all-in-one video bars for use with its own plus Zoom’s video meeting software, Oslo, Norway-based Neat, and DTEN.
Zoom’s appliance strategy gets the thumbs-up from Roopam Jain, industry director for UC and collaboration at Frost & Sullivan. “Zoom Rooms has always been a disruptive alternative to costly, walled-off legacy hardware room systems, and the new appliance program enables AV teams to video-enable every huddle and conference room while continuing to offer robust speed of innovation to users,” she said in a prepared statement.
Beyond the new appliances, Zoom’s Rooms updates include a variety of capabilities aimed at improving the user experience and management functions. The lineup comprises:
  • A scheduling display “find a room” feature that shows users a map of nearby rooms available for ad hoc bookings
  • The ability to use a second Zoom Rooms for Touch device, when added to an existing Zoom meeting room, as a whiteboard. This companion whiteboard uses an interactive display and computer, Zoom said. As the companion doesn’t require a room controller, camera, or audio component, no additional licensing is necessary.
  • For use in large rooms, support for up to two room controllers and scheduling displays per room
  • Three camera presets that allow for audio-based speaker tracking via voice pickup from supported microphones
  • A profile update that lets administrators input audio-visual and display settings so in-room meeting participants can select which mode – lecture or panel, for example – is best for their use case
  • For digital signage, a split-screen display capability and weather and RSS feed widgets
  • On the management side, controller support for customizable IP-based commands; with this capability customers will be able to add controls for lighting, window shades, and more, Zoom said.
  • Via the Zoom admin portal, the ability to manage Rooms iOS, Mac OS, and Windows OS devices remotely, without a third-party mobile device management
  • Virtual backgrounds for Rooms, adding to the virtual backgrounds Zoom has offered for mobile and desktop use
  • An AI-based face detection technique for giving administrators a count on the number of attendees in a Rooms meeting; available in the admin dashboard
While Zoom Rooms got the heaviest dose of updates announced at Zoomtopia, Zoom Phone and Zoom Meetings got some attention, too.
Calling in Zoom
For Zoom Phone, announcements came in four areas:
  1. Geographic reach -- Introduced one year ago with initial availability in January, Zoom Phone has been available in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and Australia. Now, it’s also generally available in Ireland, and Puerto Rico, with beta service available in nearly a dozen European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, Zoom said.
  2. Additional new capabilities -- Global dial plans, location-based call routing, and support for dynamic e911, as well as support for Citrix Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  3. Ecosystem expansion -- GTT and Voxbone join Zoom’s bring-your-own-carrier program, which allows Zoom Phone customers to use a PSTN provider of their choice; and Genesys, InContact, and Talkdesk join Five9 and Twilio as part of Zoom’s contact center partner program, to facilitate on-net SIP trunk peering and provide easy-to-manage call routing options from Zoom Phone to cloud contact center platforms, Zoom said.
  4. New integrations -- Zoom has given its certification stamp of approval to AudioCodes session border controller and desk phone portfolios, and it now supports overhead paging solutions from Algo and Cyberdata.
The Zoom Phone integrations are in addition to a handful of other product integrations coming to the company’s app marketplace. These include for Zoom for Microsoft, a native Microsoft Teams integration; Zoom for Salesforce, which lets users start a Zoom Meeting and use the Zoom Phone dialer; security services from NICE, Palo Alto Networks, and others; and ServiceNow, for automatic ticketing and Zoom Chat notification so issues can be resolved in Zoom Rooms, Zoom said.
Meetings a la Zoom
In the last set of product enhancements, Zoom has bolstered its Meetings service to improve the user experience and to empower them with technology, the company said. The four additions for Zoom Meetings are.
  • A simultaneous interpretation capability that lets users bring their own interpreters while Zoom provides multiple audio channels and optimally mixes the original and interpreter audio. By doing so, Zoom said, a listener should be able to understand the interpreter while hearing the tone of the original speaker.
  • Real-time transcription and voice note taking, powered by
  • Ability to take meeting notes within the Zoom interface, or use the voice note taking mentioned above; all invited meeting participants have access to notes and AI-determined action items through the Meeting Timeline
  • Support for videos and Microsoft PowerPoint files, as well as JPEG support, for mixed-reality virtual backgrounds
All above-mentioned capabilities are either available now or will be available by the end of January 2020, Zoom said.
Editor's note: This post has been updated since publication.