Zoomtopia 2019 – Out of this world

This past week, Zoom hosted their annual user conference in San Jose, California.  The reported number of registrations for the event was double that of last year and was listed at 2600. From employees dressed as Astronauts to Snoop Dogg, this event was in a world of its own. Read on to hear one man’s journey to Zoomtopia.

New Tech Unveiled

Zoom’s CTO revealed some new features already available and some currently in beta.  We will soon be able to convert speech to text while conducting a video conference call and have that text be searchable.  This is not new technology and has limited use in my opinion.  Another feature that will soon be available is language translation.  In real time you can speak to a colleague from another part of the world and both speak in your native languages.  They provided a demonstration of this with English, French and Spanish speaking guests all communicating together.   I was impressed with this feature until the demonstration when they showed two additional individuals on the active call who were human translators.  I don’t think I want a total stranger on my calls, live-translating my business dealings.  Another feature relates to virtual backgrounds.  This functionality exists today, though soon you’ll be able to add a motion-enriched virtual background. The demonstration of this was an individual with a beach scene behind him.  At first the waves and palm trees were still images, and then once activated the waves began to crash onto the beach and palm trees sway in the breeze.  Personally, I think all virtual backgrounds look like an elementary school aged child’s first attempt at Photoshop.  This feature in action is even more distracting! The Zoom Phone was also a heavily discussed topic as it attempts to disrupt the traditional VOIP phone market.  A new feature demonstrated included an employee who received a call on her Zoom phone, placed the call on hold, transferred it to her cell phone, then found an available Zoom room and once she entered the room transferred the call to that system and continued on with their discussion.  This sequence of events may seem simple as I’ve described it, however nothing is simpler than stating, “I’ll call you back from the conference room.”

Workshops and Conferences

After the keynote and several hours of working the joint Avocor/Almo booth, I jumped into a session labeled, “Deep Dive into the Future of Zoom Rooms.” The description did mention a guest speaker from Poly, Tim Root and Zoom employee Jeff Smith, but no one else.  A representative from Neat was added last minute, which turned this into a 45 minute sales pitch on Poly vs. Neat.

The troubling part of this was that Poly had been promoting their partnership with Zoom for months leading up to the Zoom user conference and Neat hadn’t even been announced until the opening keynote a mere 4 hours earlier.  The heavy investments made by Poly, Logitech, Crestron and others appeared to be dismissed for this new brand which Zoom has invested into.

I attended a session titled “Going advanced with Zoom Rooms for ProAV,” where I was joined by several supporting audio visual integrators.  If you’ve been in the AV industry for any length of time, you would have been able to teach this course.

Discussions included panel and camera placement, the need for confidence monitors and table top mics vs. ceiling mics.  This did not accurately represent ProAV.

I anticipate those who began to read this have since stopped and moved onto another article or dove back into their inbox.  That’s ok. They’ll not be at next year’s Zoom conference, but if you’re still reading, I hope you will consider attending! For as harsh as I’ve been about this conference, it included some amazing interactions. While demonstrating Avocor’s 65” & 75” displays with Zoom kits including Logitech, Huddly, MXL mics, Lenovo and JBL, I was engaging with high level execs from Fortune 500, oil & gas, universities and various startups in tech and biomedical.  In addition, many of AVIXA’s top integrators were in attendance to better understand how to engage with this fast growing company.

In Closing

Zoom may not have released a fancy new widget or enhancement and that’s ok.  Those are not the reasons why this platform has been so rapidly accepted.  It’s been adopted because it just works as expected! For new users, there is very little instruction needed to get up and running.  Of course, if you are looking to deploy a Zoom Conference Room, you will need the assistance of a Professional Audio Visual Integrator.  Many of the end users I spoke with complained about the all-in-one solutions on the market as having a bad camera, mic or insufficient audio enhancement for their space.  Although Zoom is sending mixed messages to end users about the need for our industries expertise, end users seem clear on what they need.  They want Zoom and they want the best display, mic and speakers for their specific space.  Sure, some customers will look to deploy Zoom Rooms themselves, but there will always be DIY end users.  Almo has prepared kits with Zoom certified hardware for various room needs and sizes.  These kits come complete with all the essentials and allow our integrators to purchase all brands from a single source.

While still relatively small, Zoom managed to draw an impressive crowd to this user conference.  The size allowed for sufficient engagement and there was genuine interest in expanding this platform across the globe. Zoom is expanding into various global markets like Central and South America, Europe and Asia Pacific.  To be successful, they will need Professional Integrators to deploy professional enterprise solutions that can all be found at Almo!

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