I recently posted on rAVe Publications blog post about Zoom.  That content is below.  Wow!  What a fire-storm this created for me and some PVC team members.  What is at issue? Complacency.

Many of our customers, partners, and channel members wondered if I (and by extension) have given up on the portfolio of services and are picking favorites.  Honestly, yes.  Everything we sell is a favorite, but all for different reasons. We would not sell it if we could not support it, if the product was not proven effective in solving the problems our customers face.

Oddly enough, however, not all customers have the same problems.  When we founded Perfect Video Conferencing we were solidly choosing ShoreTel and Lifesize as disruptive premises-based solutions with a unique value proposition.  Today’s market, however is cloudy with a crowd of cloud offerings all touting the best approached to HD voice and video Unified Communications.  We’ve chosen our portfolio of partners (with some pending as well) because not all customer problems are created equally.

Look for two blog series to follow.  The first is our “Cloudy Cloud” series – a practical guide to picking a cloud-based video conferencing solution. The second series will be around the “Integrated Cloud” the trend we are seeing whereby Unified Communications providers offer a series of application integrations, branding or unique management offers that help a video conference solution become more of a professional services engagement that a problem of AV integration for a facilities team.

Here is Gary Payne’s original post and my response for a flavor of how we believe customers are suffering from the confusion of a crowded (cloudy) cloud video conferencing market.  My team and I are hoping to help make your choices Perfectly clear.  Here is a direct link to the post http://www.ravepubs.com/zoom-next-competitor

______Update: I spoke to ZOOM CEO Eric Yuan this morning. He told me that it’s correct that they do try to establish relationships directly with the clients. But, he says that ZOOM’s policy about this is very specifically defined: If an AV integrator has an existing client relationship, all they need to do is register that client and ZOOM will not go or talk directly to the client without the integrator’s assistance. But, if ZOOM establishes the relationship directly, they will potentially sell the ZOOM system directly. Yuan says, “We do have a PSO team and sometimes customers can count on Zoom to set up/install Zoom rooms system per their requests. But customers will purchase hardware by themselves or via CDW, etc.” He also stated unequivocally that ZOOM would never give away the hardware to a client for free to get the ZOOM sale. I asked him if he’d ever done that and he said, “No, and I will stake my personal reputation in this claim.”_______

We just got confirmation of a multi-million dollar AV integration job that was designed by an AV consultant and bid on by reputable AV integration firms but, the job was awarded to ZOOM — yes, ZOOM, the videoconferencing manufacturer, directly.

Yes, the same ZOOM soft-codec, video- and web-conferencing services — the same one you, as an integrator, are specifying to your clients.

But here’s the kicker — we have a source that says ZOOM agreed to put in all the AV gear for FREE — yes, free. All they wanted was a long-term licensing deal for the ZOOM software. So, they’re going to install the hardware for free, apparently, to get the software licensing fee.

But ZOOM is also actively promoting (and still recruiting) their AV partners. Look here.

When we first heard about this, we were skeptical that it was true. But now we know it’s true. ZOOM isn’t really making it a secret that they are doing this. Check this out; they’re actively advertising to hire AV installers: https://zoom.us/careers (scroll down to Professional Services). And, just in case they take these job postings down, you can see the screen shots I took of the ads here and here.

It gets even more interesting — they’re even advertising to the end user clients that they do AV Integration — open this PDF and scroll down to the section on “Deployment.” Again, in case ZOOM takes this down, I grabbed it and you can see it here.

So, are you selling and integrating ZOOM? If so, does this concern you?

I reached out the ZOOM President, Eric Yuan himself yesterday, to find out what the plan was within ZOOM: Are they planning to go completely direct in the future of do they still want to support the AV integration channel? I suspect that, once you’ve had this happen once, you’re unlikely to continue to support a manufacturer that sells direct (and even actually competes with you) — especially since you can get soft-codecs from others who aren’t selling direct or installing the hardware for free to get the software seat-license contract.

And my comment:  Randy Marcotte • 5 days ago

Hello there... Chiming in from the Zoom Partner community. We are one of the zoom partners in that link you send, Perfect Video Conferencing. Check us out.

Zoom is a disruptive force like nothing I have seen in many years of Unified Communications. I do believe; however, they are more of an outcome of an ever-changing, imploding and morphing UC space rather than a cause. Clearly Zoom is starting to frame the conversation as well. Freemium or Free services, end-user savvy products and massive competition have reset the enterprise expectations. USB cameras can now out-perform H323 systems and a simple work-station and be imaged to replace robust video systems (codecs). We've chosen to work with this shift rather than resist it. The codec or purposely-built hardware is not dead, but it seems to be on life-support or at least in the ER. I think members of this AV community must adapt to the Zoom-like models emerging (Zoom is not alone here- just look at Bluejeans Huddle Rooms, Starleaf, Pexip, Fuze, Ring Central, Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, ShoreTel... fill in the UC solution - they all "do video") Adapt or be left behind.

Zoom direct? We don't like it. It is our biggest challenge. This has mostly been around software sales, however and not the AV integration to make sure the customer gets it done right.

We also don't see direct sales conflicts often. Zoom has a great set of channel-friendly team members creating great deal registration, clear conflict resolution processes and a clear expectation of doing what is right for the customer AND the channel. As others have implied here, however, they have a long way to go before they can match any of the AV install experience we provide or meet the demands of an enterprise customer's facility needs.

We have seen more custom license pricing to off-set hardware gear purchases than we like. We have not seen any free gear for contracted licenses. I'll post again should I see free gear deals. That would seem hard to sustain. What we are experiencing, however, is a growth in request for us to be a clean-up crew or a deployment team, which is quite exciting. If we assume USB cameras (Logitech specifically) and Zoom, Bluejeans, Skype for Business has won, how then do we work with this new customer profile and get AV integration right. That's what we think is next and why we choose to work with Zoom.