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ZK Research Predictions for 2014

Well, it's that time of year again. I've broken out my snow blower, decked the halls, wrapped (and opened) presents--now it's time to put on my Kreskin hat and predict the future of unified communications. Drum roll please...

Video Communications Rebounds
In some ways I'm cheating on this prediction because I don't think video usage has actually declined at all, other than in perception. The research firms show the video conferencing market as flat, and hardware revenue may be flat, but utilization rates are through the roof.

Frankly I think it's time we looked at different metrics to determine market share and market size, such as a combination of hardware, software and services. I recently finished a survey asking the question, "How do you expect the utilization of video communications will change over the next 12 months?" and a whopping 90% expect an increase in utilization, with 68% projecting an increase of 10% or more.

There's no question that video is at an all-time high, and I believe the spend is healthy as well. It's just the growth areas are in software and services. In 2014 though, the increased usage of video should drive sales back to hardware as companies start to build "huddle rooms" and look to add more multi-party video into the business.

UC Management Heats Up
I'm aware that I've predicted this before, but I do believe this time we will actually see the market take off. First, if I keep predicting it, I'll eventually be right. More importantly though, the complexity of UC systems and the desire for multi-vendor solutions are at all-time highs. To deal with this, there is a plethora of management vendors that address different parts of UC management--including vendors such as VOSS, Riverbed, Netscout, Action Packed Networks and Unimax.

The down side of UC management is that there isn't a complete solution, and organizations will need to use two to three vendors to manage the lifecycle of UC. Hopefully we'll start to see some M&A activity in this market so vendors can bring broader offerings to market.

Good Makes Good
In mid 2013, I ran a survey on BYOD trends with ZK Research media partner Tech Target. In it, we asked organizations who their preferred mobile management vendor is, and unsurprisingly, there was no de facto leader. Instead we have a number of companies all jockeying for mindshare. I predict that in 2014, Good will leverage its collaboration suite and application development tools to break away from the pack of other mobile management vendors and establish itself as the company to beat.

Cisco's Focus Pays Off
The collaboration business unit at Cisco has been meandering now for the last couple of years. Rowan Trollope was appointed the GM of collaboration in late 2012 to fix this, and he has been relatively quiet as to what his plans are. At Collaboration Summit, he shared some ideas around how collaboration needs to evolve at Cisco--easy to use, easy to buy, fully integrated, etc. I believe in 2014 we'll see Trollope's work pay off and order growth for collaboration pick up next year.

Polycom Surprises On The Upside
Contrary to popular belief, video isn't dead. Far from it. The technology is alive and kicking, and is seeing record utilization within companies. It only appears that the market is flat for the reasons I pointed out earlier.

As I mentioned before in my 2013 wrap-up blog, video usage begets video usage, and the increased utilization of desktop and mobile video will drive organizations to upgrade room-based and immersive systems. Polycom appears to have everything set up for a strong 2014--CloudAxis will be generally available, virtual products are on the roadmap, and the company has a great relationship with Microsoft and will be one of the big benefactors of the Lync wave. Expect Polycom to surprise many by putting up growth numbers in the mid to high single digits as it starts to transition the company away from a video-focused company to a collaboration provider.

UCaaS Explodes
The last few years have already seen a significant increase in the number of UCaaS (UC as a Service) offerings from tier 1 service providers and UCaaS pure plays. In 2014, we'll see systems integrators and VARs leverage products such as Cisco's Business Edition 6K and Avaya's Collaboration Pod to roll out their own cloud offerings. These validated, integrated products enable almost any company to become a UC cloud provider, increasing competitiveness and innovation in this space. I also believe a few years ago, most VARs weren't comfortable with a business model based on recurring revenue, but that barrier appears to have fallen. Cloud UC will be the next big competitive market.

Enterprise Connect 2014 Will Have A Record Number Of New Sponsors
The shift to software, cloud and mobility has opened the door for many new competitors to jump into the collaboration space. I believe this trend will be reflected at Enterprise Connect 2014, as we should have a record number of "new" sponsors--that is, companies that weren't at the show five years ago. The broader ecosystem is good for everyone, as new companies bring new ideas and more innovation into this industry. I'm certainly looking forward to Orlando (I thought I'd never hear myself say that).

Unless something big happens over the next couple of weeks, this should be my last blog posting for 2013. I want to thank everyone who followed my blogs, and I sincerely appreciated the feedback--good and bad. I'd like to also thank site editors and fellow bloggers Eric Krapf and Fred Knight for all the hard work they do keeping the site up and running.

Happy Holidays everyone and see you in 2014!

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