I had this thought back at Zoomtopia 2018, but after Zoomtopia 2019, it’s clear: Zoom is the Apple of the AV industry.
Zoom is what?
All of the eyes in AV were looking at Zoom yesterday. If you don’t believe me, look at the social stats of tweets and LinkedIn posts about Zoom Video Communications, Inc. in and around Zoomtopia 2019. The company dominated the AV-sphere yesterday, raking in about 55% of the total AV discussion online over the past 24 hours. These numbers are in line with Apple’s keynote numbers.
Here’s what I mean.
Apple does two big keynote-like announcements per year, usually one in the summer and one in the fall. The next day, every primary member of the tech press covers them like Apple re-invented technology — even when a new feature has been available on a competing product for months or even years. Case in point: Apple made the last two generations of the iPhone waterproof. Samsung had waterproof phones two years earlier. But, Apple’s announcements are EXPERIENCES, and they’re ones everyone wants to attend. The company launches products with amazing simplicity, and Apple simplifies the tech-tough specs into real-world examples that a user can connect with. Oh, and Apple surrounds product launches with featured entertainment like Coldplay, OK Go and Fall Out Boy.
Wikipedia, Apple rumors sites and even most mainstream press outlets publish front-page stories on the new gear Apple launched the day before.
Tech pubs also cover Samsung product launches, but these launches are rarely mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today or even the New York Times — even when the announcements take place in New York!
Yesterday at Zoomtopia 2019, Zoom launched a bevy of new product features, partnerships and hardware compatibility. All were wrapped around an opening performance by Star War’s musical conductor, John Williams’ Orchestra and a keynote by Richard Branson of Virgin fame. There’s a concert today, on the second day of the event, featuring Snoop Dogg and Lynyrd Skynyrd — yes, you read that right!
Yesterday’s keynote did feature Cisco but as the butt of a joke. Like Steve Jobs often did in his Apple keynotes, Zoom founder Eric Yuan made fun of Cisco — his former employer — for adding 40 minutes of free video conferencing to its meetings product. This is a feature Zoom has had for almost two years. Yuan then announced that Zoom would offer 41 minutes for free in their meetings product. That’s precisely how Apple treated Microsoft at keynotes. And, like Cisco is in videoconferencing, Microsoft is the perceived leader that Zoom is trying to knock off.
Once former #2 worldwide videoconferencing leader, Polycom, (Now called Poly after their “merger” with Plantronics) is over in the corner yelling, “We are still here too!” Poly is still present in the VTC market but joined the Zoom party yesterday by announcing a family of Zoom-certified accessories. These include a speaker bar and a microphone array with a built-in camera. Poly’s core profitable business is still hardware-based VTC systems. This reminds me of when Motorola kept saying that the smartphone would never catch on as people would get tired of replacing cracked glass. Thus, the company opted to stick with the flip-phone design. Poly has stepped outside of the Motorola-mantra of ignoring their competition and has joined the trend towards soft-codec systems. It has a family of meeting room products for Zoom, Microsoft Teams and even Cisco Webex Meetings. So, the company will be just fine. But like Motorola selling out to Google, you can’t miss the analogy to Polycom becoming Poly after being purchased by headset giant Plantronics. All the while, Zoom’s founder, Eric Yuan, like Steve Jobs, is smiling and sticking to his core belief: As the CEO of a company that’s worth billions of dollars, he doesn’t need to travel more than three times a year. He never misses his kid’s basketball games. Steve Jobs ate dinner with his kids nearly every night, and he required them all to turn off their phones and other electronic devices while doing it.
Our coverage of Zoomtopia 2019 starts here.