Ironically, the panic-driven spike of interest in remote working made many entrepreneurs turn this necessary measure into a permanent condition of their interaction with colleagues and clients. ‘Work from home is here to stay’, the U.S. tech media PCMag states as 47% of Americans will consider leaving their job if they have no ‘fully remote’ option.
This trend catalyzed demand for high-performance services for video conferencing. What do people expect from their video conference app in 2021?
- High speed: reliable streaming even with mediocre Internet connection
- Multi-task approach: ecosystem instead of service
- Flexible tariff policy for individuals and businesses
- New-gen security standards
- One app, many platforms: mobile first
1. Zoom Meetings
In 2020, Zoom evolved into a benchmark ‘one-size-fits-all’ video conference instrument. Launched in 2011, it announced its IPO in 2019. Zoom made headlines by its eye-watering $356.8 million IPO raise; its stocks rocketed 72% in the first 24 hours after listing. In 2021, it announced another $1,5 bln stocks offering as the company is valued 10x from IPO price.
Zoom still offers one of the richest toolkits in the segment: up to 100 speakers and 25 streams in free tariff, integration with main browsers, implementations for all mainstream operating systems, HD-video and audio, and so on.
The subscribers of paid plans (start from $14,99) can also enjoy automated meeting transcripts, cloud back-ups of conferences, customized interface and a plethora of other impressive perks.
At the same time, Zoom is at the frontline of criticism due to its perennial security issues. It restricted end-to-end encryption for free users while some of its encryption keys were generated by China-based servers which is considered to be a threat for customers in many countries.
Also, its infamous data leaks with 500,000 accounts offered for sale on darknet forums underlined the problems of security in video conferencing as a whole.
2. Google Meet
Ok, no new. Compared to Zoom, a native Google’s video conferencing tool has a limited range of functions. Namely, it lacks the ‘Share Mouse/Keyboard/Desktop’ option in the free plan, it offers no transcript instruments and can’t be integrated with social media platforms.
At the same time, it is a part of the holistic Google Workspace ecosystem with its documents, chats, process tracking, cloud storage, and mailing software. It also doesn’t need downloads and installations: all Google Meet instruments can be used in the web interface.
In order to try the whole pack of features, a user should buy a Google Workspace subscription for his/her team.
3. Microsoft Teams
In a nutshell, Microsoft Team should be referred to as a reliable and powerful instrument for video conferences though mostly suitable for Microsoft-centric corporate software environments.
Its toolkit looks almost similar to that of Google Meet, but additionally their devs implemented ‘Share Mouse/Keyboard/Desktop’ options. Microsoft Teams is the most ‘customizable’ ecosystem for video conferences.
Microsoft Teams is included into all tariff plans of Microsoft 365 while separate tariffs for Teams start from $5,99 per month. Also, it is worth noticing that in late 2021 some functions of Microsoft Teams will migrate to an entirely new product by MS, Viva Connections.
Overhyped application Hopin represents a new-gen approach to video conferencing software. It unites a number of remote work services under its umbrella acting as ‘one-stop-shop’ for remote work, interviews, online events, hiring and business development.
In early March, 2021, Hopin dropped a bombshell by its Series C funding round co-led by iconic VC funds Andreessen Horowitz and General Catalyst. The start-up raised $400 mln at a valuation of between $5 billion and $6 billion.
In 2020, Hopin raised $40 mln in Series A funding and $125mln in Series B co-led by IVP and Tiger Global. Analysts claim that these whopping raises might be the last ones for the whole segment.
Technically, Hopin promotes itself as a large-scale rival of Zoom: while Zoom is suitable for meetings with up to 50 speakers, Hopin is way more ambitious. Besides the ecosystem approach, Hopin pioneered the concept of ‘mega-events’ with 100,000 attendees.
Mind application also shares the ‘ecosystem-first’ approach of Hopin but it has a string of ‘killing features’. First, its toolkit is more impressive than that of ‘first-gen’ applications like Google Meet or Microsoft Teams. It can work in a web interface while the applications for iOS and Android allow seamless access to conferences on mobile.
Then, it is laser-focused on security issues. Mind (imind.com) is the first video conference solution that successfully implemented the cybersecurity best practices and standards.
Mind adheres to a novel encryption design: the security of its users is ensured by WebRTC standards. As such, its encryption protects both the interaction (DTLS) and hardware modules (SRTP / AES-128).
Last but not least, it’s platform-agnostic: while Google Meet is mostly comfortable for Google Workspace advocates and Microsoft Teams requires previous Microsoft 360 experience, Mind on-boards customers with no regard to software stack they already use.
In a word, both users and investors in video conference applications are betting on two trends: ecosystems and ‘security-first’ models. As a result, the two requirements are the ‘musts’ for new unicorns in this corner.