It's not CES! A great showing for sure (>38,000 attendees), but it's a show in miniature compared to CES (>170,000). Easy to get around, easy to eat, easy to meet, easy in and out. Did I say it was HOT? Jeez it was HOT! January is a better time to visit Vegas.
I have no dog in the hunt at the moment, so I'm in a unique position to tell it like I see it. I'm not getting paid, I'm not reviewing any products at a vendors request, I have no axe to grind. In the spirit from one of my favorite trusted advisor sites, the Wirecutter, I'll end with what I would use for myself from the products that were shown by video conferencing vendors in the North Hall. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did get a free t-shirt from Logitech without doing the scavenger hunt. Thanks Robin!
I ran into more than three dozen old friends and ex-colleagues. That was an unexpected surprise. Met a dozen new people too. Three of the new acquaintances were of particular interest. It was serendipity really as I had a pre-booked meeting at the Mandarin Oriental (the SkyBar on the 23rd floor is ... SWEET!) with one of them. Turns out he was the chairman of an interesting company that I had seen on the show floor early in the day. Met the CEO and CTO the next morning before I hoped on a plane. Thanks guys for making the extra effort to meet up at my hotel lobby early in the morning! And that's all I've got to say about that until my non-compete ends in September.
Honestly, I didn't see a lot of new things that I would classify as earth shattering (other than consolidation, both real and imagined). Zoom still appears to be crushing it. Cisco is impressive to stay so big for so long and continue to dominate the top end of the market. Logitech is grinding it out as an arms merchant to the various services. Despite Microsoft being absent, everybody was representing around Skype for Business. I suppose MS gets a free pass since they were likely busy putting ~$27B of large bills in suitcases for LinkedIn. Everyday that goes by seems to get harder for Blue Jeans as it seems time is passing them by and a bunch of credible competitors in market. Starleaf consistently shows up as they have for the last 7 years or so and their new UC OpenCloud initiative looks interesting. The Polycom booth was packed which surprised me. I guess waiting to see if they put on the Mitel cap or Siris Capital cap. I did like the Trio product. Centro, not so much. Videxio, Pexip, Grandstream, YeaLink and too many more to name ... yawn. Lifesize was self-banished to the far outskirts of the Central Hall in a corner of the Synex booth (WTF?). Almost as far away from the other video conferencing players as possible. And there was that one other little company that will remain nameless for now.
Four Quick Stories & Lessons from the Show
On the outbound plane, I talked to a guy who had his IT guy a few seats back. We talked about VC and a project about to start at the University of Texas. The trusted advisor (a small, local, unknown AV reseller) knows about Cisco and no one else. He asked if I was interested in doing some consulting. I said no. Lesson learned: the gatekeepers in this industry are alive and well.
Next, I met a woman heading up IT for a $1B Austin based public company. They use a variety of collaboration gear and looking for validation of the current systems as well as what is new. First and foremost criteria was job preservation ... for her. Lesson learned: survival instincts are still strong in the jungle.
Next, I ran into a high ranking representative of an industry trade group sitting next to me at breakfast. We knew each other from years ago. They were familiar with the Lifesize of old and their opinions were stuck back in the era of HD endpoints. Despite my comments to the contrary, they were sure that Lifesize was dead. Perception is reality. Lesson learned: maybe these trade shows have some value after all. Keep showing up.
Lastly, I overheard a conversation at the Acano section of the Cisco booth. JNJ was there and they were giddy over the prospect of expanding their Cisco deployment. Lesson learned: on premise is far from dead and for companies like JNJ there are only two options ... Cisco or Microsoft.
From the list of vendors showing their wares in the North Hall at Infocomm 2016 ... I would personally deploy ... drumroll please ...