Last week Zoom announced a USD 100 million Zoom Apps Fund to promote the development of Zoom’s ecosystem of Zoom applications, integrations, video, developer tools, and hardware.
As part of Zoom Apps Fund, the company will invest in a portfolio of companies that are promoting and innovating on Zoom’s video conferencing platform. The portfolio companies will receive initial investments between USD 250,000 and USD 2.5 million to build solutions. To support the practice, Zoom is providing its tools and expertise to various start-ups, entrepreneurs, and industry players to build applications and integrate Zoom’s functionality and native interface in their products.
In March, Zoom introduced an SDK designed to help programmers embed Zoom functionality inside their applications. Zoom SDK is a component of Zoom Developer platform which includes SDKs, APIs, webhooks, chatbots, and distribution for applications and integration. Last year Zoom launched Zoom Apps and Zoom Marketplace at its Zoomtopia virtual conference to bring applications and productivity into the Zoom experience.
Zoom is not alone in evolving their Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) capabilities and market. Tencent rolled out their video conferencing solution for the global market, Facebook expanded their offerings in videoconferencing applications through the integration of new features, Google announced a series of upgrades and innovations to better support the flexibility needs of frontline and remote workers in Google Workspaces, and Microsoft introduced Viva that aims to bring together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights together.
“Ecosystm research shows that 50% of organisations will continue to increase use of collaboration platforms and tools in 2021. However, if videoconferencing remains just a tool to log in to for meetings without purpose-built workflows and functionality that suit worker profiles, then it will start losing its attractiveness. Vendors need to work on user interface, UX, the lighting, security, audio quality and many other aspects that draws users to the platform.
The big question is what next for videoconferencing vendors? How can engineering teams innovate to build the capabilities organisations want when they use drawing tools, share images, have chats and discussions within collaboration platforms? How do you make the experience real so employees can “live and breathe” in the environment?
Zoom investing in understanding what apps and workflows are suited for a particular vertical or business is fundamental to the future of video and collaboration and will be a big game changer.”
“Zoom is continuing to expand the markets in which they operate and investing in start-ups increases their opportunities to grow as a platform. Their App Marketplace already offers a rich source of innovations, with Zoom themselves appearing to develop integration with market leaders such as Salesforce and HubSpot in the CRM category. This has led to Zoom integrations in close to 80 CRM products – including integrations developed in-house by Salesforce and HubSpot to supplement Zoom capabilities.
They are promoting an open web and audio-conferencing platform that does not limit users to the walled-garden approach of competitors such as Microsoft Teams.
Zoom’s strategy creates the opportunity for CIOs to access a widely used, rich functionality, digital collaboration channel – one they can integrate seamlessly into their existing digital channels knowing that their customers are likely to be highly familiar with the user experience.”
Get more insights on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and technology areas that will see innovations, as organisations get into the recovery phase.
The country clearly recognises the need for a robust infrastructure to accelerate innovation – Microsoft has also received approval from the New Zealand government in September last year to open a data centre region. To support the future of cloud services and to fulfil New Zealand progressive data centre demands, CDC Data Centres have also planned to develop two new hyperscale data centres in Auckland, New Zealand.
“The introduction of the Datagrid New Zealand data centre in Invercargill will be a welcome asset to the Southland region of New Zealand. With primary industries being farming, fishing and forestry, the region has done well throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will further benefit the local economy by delivering opportunities for economic prosperity for local businesses.
With long-term growth at the data centre expected to consume up to 100MW of renewable energy, Meridian Energy is well equipped to provide renewable energy generated at the Manapouri hydroelectric power station, capable of generating 850MW. The potential closure of the 550MW Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is expected to put the country in a position of oversupply.
The data centre will be a critical piece of New Zealand’s infrastructure, supporting the roll-out of 5G networks by telecom providers and the need for low-latency cloud compute and data storage. Datagrid will provide a competitive alternative to the likes of Microsoft’s new data centre.
While the construction and opening of the data centre will possibly add more stress to New Zealand’s under-resourced construction sector, it will also create tech jobs in the Southland region, in the long term. Unique to the region is the Southern Institute of Technology that has a Zero Fees Scheme that has been confirmed until the end of 2022. The data centre will help to keep skilled tech workers in the region.“
Identifying emerging cloud computing trends can help you drive digital business decision making, vendor and technology platform selection and investment strategies.Gain access to more insights from the Ecosystm Cloud Study.
Intellibot is the latest in a string of purchases by ServiceNow that reveals their intention to embed AI and machine learning into offerings. In 2020, they acquired Loom Systems, Passage AI (both January), Sweagle (June), and Element AI (November) in addition to Attivio in 2019. These acquisitions were integrated into the latest version of their Now Platform, code-named Quebec, which was launched earlier this month. As a result, Predictive AIOps and AI Search were newly added to the platform while the low-code tools were expanded upon and became Creator Workflows. This means ServiceNow now offers four primary solutions – IT Workflows, Employee Workflows, Customer Workflows, and Creator Workflows – demonstrating the importance they are placing on low-code and RPA.
ServiceNow was quick to remind the market that although they will be able to offer RPA functionality natively once Intellibot is integrated into their platform, they are still willing to work with competitors. They specifically highlighted that they would continue partnering with UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism, suggesting they plan to use RPA as a complementary technology to their current offerings rather than going head-to-head with the Big Three. Only a month ago, UiPath announced deeper integration with ServiceNow, by expanding automation capabilities for Test Management 2.0 and Agile Development projects.
Expansion in India
The acquisition of Intellibot, based in Hyderabad, is part of ServiceNow’s expansion strategy in India – one of their fastest growing markets. The country is already home to their largest R&D centre outside of the US and they intend to launch a couple of data centres there by March 2022. The company plans to double their local staff levels by 2024, having already tripled the number of employees there in the last two years. The expansion in India means they can increasingly offer services from there to global customers.
“Buyers will find that many of the automation capabilities that they currently purchase separately will increasingly be integrated in their enterprise applications. This will resolve integration challenges and will be more cost-effective.”
The cloud hyperscalers are also likely to play a growing role in the RPA market over the next year. Microsoft and IBM have already entered the market, coming from the angle of office productivity and business process management (BPM), respectively. Google announced just last week that they will work closely with Automation Anywhere to integrate RPA into their cloud offerings, such as Apigee, AppSheet, and AI Platform. More interestingly, they plan to co-develop new solutions, which might for now satisfy Google’s appetite for RPA rather than requiring an acquisition.
Here are some of the trends to watch for RPA, AI and Automation in 2021. Signup for Free to download Ecosystm’s Top 5 AI & Automation Trends Report.
This Ecosystm Insight is a summary of the client report and is the first of a few Insights into DeX. In future, I plan to trial the dual-monitor ability for DeX (developed by VoIP – an Australian ICT consultancy). These Ecosystm Insights won’t cover how to use Samsung DeX. If you are looking for this information, Gizmodo has published a good piece here.
In trialling Samsung DeX I attempted to cover all usage scenarios, including:
Native DeX with the phone connected to a DeX station and both wired and wireless keyboard/mouse, using both wi-fi and 4G (I live literally 50 metres outside of 5G coverage!)
DeX through Windows 10 using both wi-fi and 4G and a wired mouse and keyboard
In the native DeX environment I worked in the traditional Microsoft productivity apps, collaboration apps (such as Teams, Zoom, Webex, Google Meet), Google productivity apps, web applications (sales, CRM & ERP), file sharing applications (OneDrive, Google Drive), imaging applications (photos, video, image sharing), social applications (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc) and other native Android apps – some of which were optimised for DeX, and some of which were not. I tried to imitate the information worker’s experience; and that of a site or specialist user. I used it as a primary computing environment for most of my work for 3-4 weeks. I didn’t just consume content, but also created content – I needed to be able to sign and attach Adobe documents, create new reports, conduct deep data analysis in Excel and create figures and move them between Excel, Word and PowerPoint. I created and shared leads in CRM systems, did company accounting in a financial application and even had some time to try out some gaming applications.
I have also trialled a Citrix and Amazon virtual desktop in all environments – running productivity applications, finance applications, graphics intensive applications and web apps.
My broad finding is that DeX is not a desktop replacement for power users – but there are plenty of roles within your business who would find that DeX is a capable environment that will allow them to get their job done.
I was planning to discuss the positive features of DeX, but the reality is that it is simpler to understand its limitations. And, most limitations are related to the Android applications or network lag introduced in virtual desktop environments using 4G.
The Microsoft productivity applications in Android are all scaled back versions of the desktop applications. They do not contain many of the features and functions that the desktop versions have. For example, when I needed to format headings in a report, the fast format options (e.g. to make text a “heading 2”) don’t exist in the Android version of Microsoft Word. Power users will find these applications don’t deliver all of the functions they need to get their job done.
Those who need broader functionality beyond the Android applications will benefit from a virtual desktop environment. Both Citrix Workspace and Amazon Workspaces delivered a very usable Windows 10 experience (although I found the base configuration to be a little slow). For existing users of virtual desktops, it is a no-brainer to roll them out to mobile devices if required. But would you add a virtual desktop environment to your existing desktop fleet just to enable DeX? I can’t answer that – as it is another environment to manage and support for your end-user computing and IT support teams. But again, for power users, this is not an ideal environment. It does EVERYTHING you want it to do – but it might not do it fast enough to satisfy all users.
It’s not a mobile environment. This isn’t something you use on your phone (although I believe you can use it on some Samsung tablets). You need a monitor, keyboard, and ideally a separate mouse for DeX to work. It doesn’t replace a laptop for a mobile worker.
DeX does not natively support dual screens or monitors. I found that I would switch back to my PC when I needed the productivity of two screens, as I personally find application switching on a single screen to be a productivity killer. BUT – this is changing – VoIP has developed a capability to run DeX across dual monitors (I will be testing this shortly and will post the results).
When using DeX natively and not using a virtual desktop, the screen sharing features of collaboration apps don’t work in the way you expect. The screen that is shared is NOT the DeX desktop screen but the horizontal mobile phone screen. This is a significant issue if you want to share a Word, PowerPoint, or Excel file or another “full desktop screen” application. DeX users can view other people’s shared screens, but not share the screen effectively themselves.
DeX introduces a new environment for your helpdesk to support. DeX isn’t Windows, it isn’t cloud, and it isn’t exactly native Android. Your tech support team will need to be trained on DeX and be required to learn a new user environment. It introduces an additional OS into the mix. That means at least some service desk technicians will need to be trained on the environment. As it is still running in Android, it doesn’t particularly require specific QA or testing for your business mobile applications. But to take full advantage of the larger screen real estate that DeX facilitates, you may need to make some changes to how applications perform in DeX.
Despite these challenges, DeX is a very capable environment. Running a virtual desktop was a breeze and performed far better than I would have imagined. I was worried about lag and had introduced many opportunities for it to run slowly – a wireless mouse and keyboard, wireless display adapter, running over wi-fi, and 4G using a virtual desktop in the cloud – and the lag was barely noticeable. I was impressed with this and understand how DeX could even be used to support legacy applications and environments too.
The convenience of having your phone at your fingertips – being able to respond to text messages on the large screen, taking calls using the same Bluetooth headphones that you use to watch video content on the larger screen, not to mention the security of taking your “PC” with you in your pocket when you head out to lunch or home for the day – adds to the value of DeX. The concept of a “PC in your pocket” has been around for a while – however most Samsung mobile users don’t realise that they have one there already!
Who are the business roles or personas who could benefit from it? The simple answer is that anyone who uses a desktop part-time would benefit from DeX. Many businesses have shared PCs for multiple users or dedicated PCs for users who don’t use a PC full-time. These might be site managers in constriction, store managers in retail, nurses, security staff, librarians, government or council workers. The significant factors that define potential DeX users are:
They spend a fair amount of time away from a PC
They still need a PC for reporting, document sharing, content creation etc
They return to a fixed site regularly (like a store, office, site office etc)
Again, it is worth noting that DeX doesn’t replace a laptop or tablet. It is not for mobile computing – it replicates fixed computing environments in a more mobile and potentially cost-effective form factor. Remember that the employees need a screen, mouse, and keyboard (you can use the phone as a mouse, but it is not ideal). They also need the charging cable to connect to the computer. If they are making regular video calls then I suggest a phone holder that allows the charging cable to stay connected and the phone to be angled so as others can see their face (wireless chargers tend to sit too far back).
And while DeX is a secure solution, and can benefit from Samsung’s Knox security platform and capabilities, pairing DeX with a secure branch of one style solution – such as that offered by Asavie, now a part of Akamai – has the ability to add end-to-end security and secure application/data access that your employees desire and your business needs.
The opportunities for DeX outweigh the challenges. I am certain that most businesses have potential DeX users – employees who reluctantly carry around a laptop, or who have to come back to a location for their computing. They might be employees who use their phones for image capture and spend much of their time transferring photos to a PC to store them into a corporate system (such as an OH&S team member, or a repair and maintenance provider for a company). It could be a brand salesperson who spends time in various retailers or on the road but still need computing for product training, entering sales figures, and other administrative tasks.
If your business already offers Samsung devices to your employees, switching on DeX is a no-brainer. Start with a trial in a limited employee pool to determine the specific challenges and opportunities within your business. If you are already using virtual desktops, then this is the easiest way to start – roll out the app to your Samsung mobile devices and you have a ready-made portable computer in your employees’ pockets.