WebRTC Expert Feature

June 09, 2014

How Fast Will WebRTC Show Up in the Mainstream?

WebRTC has started to make inroads into the video conferencing market via Google Hangouts and a bunch of startups wiring the technology into their offerings. London-based 3CX is the latest and perhaps largest IP PBX-ish company to make the WebRTC move, which begs the question as to when more traditional brand names will start offering support.

In a release on June 4, 3CX announced it had acquired e-works, an Italy-based video conferencing developer.  E-works technology will be integrated into the 3CX WebMeeting Video conferencing solution, expected to be launched "imminently" and include WebRTC.  

3CX counts among its customers Boeing, Mitsubishi Motors, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Harley Davidson, City of Vienna and Pepsi and has offices in Australia, Cyprus, Germany, Hong Kong, Malta, South Africa, the UK and the U.S.  E-works has BT, Fiat and the Province of Trento, so there is a decent listing of corporate clients between the two.

WebRTC, to belabor the obvious, frees businesses from having to purchase and support downloadable plug-ins and browsers and all that other overhead to support videoconferencing.  Anyone can conduct a videoconference by using either Firefox or Chrome, so there's a one-stop download with no front-end or back-end fees, just like in Ye Olde Days when we were able to download browsers for free.

Among the open source crowd, Digium's Asterisk, FreeSwitch, and FreePBX support WebRTC.  And there are plenty of WebRTC gateways kicking around, or announced, from bigger names including Alcatel-Lucent, Dialogic, Ericsson, Huawei, GENBAND and Metaswitch Networks. 

The bigger question becomes when one or more vendors start supporting WebRTC communications within handsets and deeper at the PBX level. Given the numerous flirtations with Android with the desktop phone, there's a short path to add support for both audio and video into enterprise and consumer devices.  Nobody has quite managed to figure out the sweet spot of price and features for a tablet with a docking station that includes a high-quality speaker phone and possibly a handset so everyone in cubeland does not have to hear both sides of every conversation.

AudioCodes announced support for the Opus codec last year on a couple of desktop phones in its bid to claim "native" WebRTC support, but is supporting the code ample justification to claiming WebRTC support? You clearly can't run video conferencing or conduct browser-based communications in a stock handset environment.

I suspect the "ideal" WebRTC "phone" looks like a 10 to 12 inch Android tablet dropped into a docking station and/or more intimately spliced into the desktop in order to utilize device speakers and microphones.  Apple showed what WebRTC could be like for the Android tablet/Windows desktop world with its WWDC 14 iOS 8/OS X Yosemite demos -- if someone could write the code.  Third-party communication client companies would do well to grab as many ideas as they can and implement them as soon as possible because Apple's demonstrated functionality is what a lot of Android/Windows folks would pay for, either on the consumer or enterprise side.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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