By Noel Kennedy
Disruption. The standout word that everyone was made aware of when talking about Vidyo. However, my introduction to Vidyo was from a point of some jealousy. In 2011, working in the AV distribution channel at the time, my company had recently begun to take Vidyo to market in the U.K and Europe. When I started there though, I was tasked with working on Radvision. Now don’t get me wrong, at the time Radvision really had some awesome video capabilities and were starting to show off more of a software and mobile face with Scopia. But across the desks in my office, my colleagues (aka The Competition) were flipping customers left, right and centre with this new Vidyo proposition.
“This is truly disruptive to the market”, “Imagine being able to hold your multiparty video calls via your phone on a lossy 3G network”, “Video conferences don’t happen in a room anymore, they are happening at the desk and you need quality from there” were all phrases being banded about over the phone (honestly). Perhaps not surprising then, that from this Radvision background, Ofer Shapiro and team came up with Vidyo. His thoughts for the industry and having an infinitely better quality, no expensive MCU, disruptive communication solution and scalable video coding were ground-breaking. So much so that all the other video players in the market suddenly clambered to create their ‘flavour’ of SVC to try to compete and get that same level of quality.
But, it’s not all plain sailing here. Vidyo had a true disdain for the ‘room’ and a blind belief that all meetings would or should be at the desk or on mobile. In this, they were perhaps 10 years too early in this thought as we see today, boardrooms dying a death and video actually being ubiquitous (Vidyo’s own Mark Noble’s favourite phrase there) across businesses today. That magic of showing someone Vidyo for the first time, as I often did, by popping out my phone, sending an invite via email or text to the people I’m meeting for them to click and connect right there in their hand without having to ask if I can ‘connect my phone to your corporate network’…brought ACTUAL smiles on my phone display as the users saw just how well the video was transmitted without the need for legacy encoding and decoding or bringing in screen artifacts. Yes, that’s right… imagine never seeing a disconnected arm floating across the screen, and that being a thing of the past in your call; well with Vidyo it was.
There were still rooms though, and businesses still firmly used video conferencing within them. Vidyo’s answer for enabling rooms was to use a PC. The very thing the industry had spent years saying not to do, because it reboots itself, because it needs antivirus, because it does other things instead of managing your video and data conversation… use that. If you are now reading between the lines, what you should be reading is; “because we don’t care about the room so just use whatever you want, we’ll chuck some software on to a PC, stick a Vidyo sticker on the front and plug in some USB device or something for the camera, oh… and another one for the audio. That will do it”.
The blindness to rooms I feel is where Vidyo started to go wrong too and its utter pig-headedness showed through. Audio was Vidyo’s kryptonite. As we all know, the most important part of video communication is not to see the person, but hear them, so the random 3rd party collection of peripherals brought echo cancellation issues or just poor quality overall. Vidyo recommended Phoenix Audio peripherals, with the collection of avian, reptilian and insect named products which in all honesty are some of the most industrial looking units ever, never befitting of a meeting room, never mind a boardroom. Then they recommended Logitech, but not all Logitech, then they moved between the two then something else. It was messy for integrators and customers alike and the room continued to suffer. The plethora of cables running to the front or the back of the Vidyo PC was a mess and then you had an infrared receiver for the remote cabled out via front USB and plonked wherever you could try and hide something you can’t hide.
And the remote. Oh the remote. Where you have the likes of Poly(com’s) remote that knew you’d picked it up and read the tone presses out to you to assist, Vidyo used something called the 4 point star pattern. So press ‘d’ and then a north/south/east/west pattern would pop out with next letters. But this couldn’t work with most dial strings in use. So you had to turn that off. Then you had to put in your string with a toysrus control. Then in the call you had coloured buttons on the remote that did different things, but nothing told you what they actually did… that was on a separate piece of paper. Looking back at all this now, that remote was truly ridiculous. They did eventually bring out a qwerty remote which made a mild improvement but it was too late by then. I digress.
Audio pains continued for PABX phone users, as again Vidyo didn’t think about this but instead rebadged a US phone companies’ cloud system and shoehorned it into the channel sale. Phone subscription packages came with a number of minutes but no one ever knew how many minutes had been used and you never seemed to run out. There was just no way of reporting on this it seemed.
But, through-out the U.K. and Europe a growing number of users joined Vidyo and enjoyed the best the industry had in terms of video quality. Clearly Vidyo’s one big customer in the E.U., CERN, was their poster child. You could easily believe they had no other customers as it was all they ever talked about. CERN still use Vidyo at the time of writing, their future with it however is unclear. What wasn’t ever unclear is Vidyo’s care of the U.K. and Europe mainland in general. With some notable financial clients like Barclays, there is a decent number of users but all using video software APIs rather than their sold hardware platforms. I worked today at, what I guess was, a Vidyo Gold CSP partner and the engagement from Vidyo was literally one person. Then that one person went, as the writing was on the wall. Sometime early 2019 Vidyo took their ball home.
At Involve, we provided Vidyo’s cloud platform and paid them $$$$ to do so, only for them to open their own and look to move all their customers on to it. Absolutely prime watching for how not to run a channel. Total zero channel engagement and zero partnership (something sadly many vendors seem to do). Then to follow this, they cut their staff from the small London office, close it along with sweeping redundancies across EMEA. What do they do instead? They pass to a servicenow setup who have absolutely zero skills set in managing this Vidyo proposition or the channel here. At one point, as one of the bigger Vidyo users in the U.K. asked me, can we get Vidyo to meet with us to discuss what is going in with our estate, I asked this of the outsourced team in Sofia and they simply said ‘We can’t come to any customer meetings’. Customer satisfaction is now well and truly a thought of the past.
And now, Enghouse, who we know provide quality customer communications with integrated solutions such as multi-channel contact centres, operator consoles and call handling, bought Vidyo on a pseudo Black Friday deal. Enghouse don’t sell video conferencing, so I can speculate that they have the Vidyo engine and it will enhance their own software. In that, they will have a superb solution without any of the hassles. But the customers in the U.K. and mainland Europe and of course the rest of the world could now have a defunct unsupported system cause I can bet a pinch to a pound of you know what that Vidyo have not communicated a single thing to them about their estates.
The jealousy I started Vidyo with, that then went through pure awesomeness, ends with utter sadness and disappointment in how this was all horrendously managed by them. The people in the UK channel should take a long hard look at themselves, but the US overlords seem to be where the problems started.
Acquisition yawner is really acquisition disruption, for a once proud innovator in the realm of videoconferencing, and the company that acquired them at a bargain basement price.
And in the end, the Disruptive Disruption is what Vidyo ultimately did to themselves, along with the way Noel Kennedy slammed this series shut.
Or was it disruptive destruction…
Noel Kennedy, Head Of Sales at Involve Visual Collaboration in the UK, is a sales professional bringing a wide range of experience across a host of markets, Channel and End User. Recognised relationship builder with strong negotiating skills and concise demonstration methods that help grow his business and that of the people he works with though a personal touch backed by big company values. On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/noelkennedy/