Zoomtopia 2018 – How Zoom is Changing Unified Communications

To say Zoom is doing things a little differently is an understatement. This story really starts on day two of the conference with Eric Yuan opening the keynote, which set the tone for the entire event. In the 16 minutes he talked on stage (not including any videos), Eric talked about the things you typically see from any yearly update. Such as how Zoom is growing exponentially, posting some big numbers, and pulling out the Gartner business 101 quadrant chart that everyone loves quoting when it goes their way. Don’t get me wrong, it was all good stuff and some great achievements to brag about, however this was only the opening for what he talked about next.

He started by teasing the announcements of new features in Zoom Rooms, the new UX, the app marketplace, and of course Zoom Voice. I spent months seriously evaluating Zoom myself, and filing dozens and dozens of bugs and feature requests. I spent a great amount of time really thinking about if this is a viable unified communications platform an enterprise could move to. What Eric Yuan said in those next three and a half minutes changed my entire perspective of the company, and caused me to really starting thinking that this company can actually do it.

Eric conveyed three very important things, respect, trust, and honesty. It felt like he was channeling the character Mikael Blomkvist from the Stieg Larsson Millennium Series. A favorite scene of mine was when Mikeal was talking towards the end of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” out on the dock with Lisbeth reflecting and discussing about how to define friendship. Simon Vance narrates this wonderfully in the audiobook version.

In Eric’s case he talked about what it means to collaborate with people, and how it can either to make or break a culture. He communicated why Zoom as a company is thinking about how to solve this problem, the right way. He respects everyone who works at Zoom and the people that use the service. Eric and the executive team listen to their customers, from simply emailing a person back, to following them on Twitter. Or even just hanging out in the expo area for hours talking with the community, as I saw him and others on the executive team do throughout the conference. There is no gloss, no marketing mumbo jumbo in the way that Zoom respects their users.

As for trust, Zoom has built it very simply by making a rock solid service that just works. Oded Gal made a beautiful ‘just works’ slide later in the keynote. People don’t care about specs and toys. People care about the jobs to be done, this is what they hire a collaboration service for. Which at the end of the day is actually just connecting people together. Giving them the tools to collaborate on what they need to accomplish. Zoom trusts that you know what your use cases are, and how to roll out technology on your terms. They will not try to control and force you to conform to hardware isolating workflows because they think is better.

Lastly Eric talked with such honestly about what kind of company Zoom is. They see how valuable visual communication is, so that you can see those non verbal queues in people. It is important to them to have a platform that is flexible for a company of any size. No company is perfect, and in my opinion Zoom still very much acts as a startup. However what Eric said in those three and a half minutes, is that this company is humble enough to know that they need to collaborate with the people that use their platform to make their service better.

Zoom Voice

#### UPDATE 10/23/2018

The Zoomtopia UC Ecosystems talk has been posted:

/####

Product Page: https://zoom.us/voice?zcid=1231

Zoom Announced that they will be entering the cloud hosted voice market, with full PSTN connectivity. Zoom talked about how the market as they view it today, is a complicated and confusing set of either on-premise or singe use case cloud based products. What Zoom is looking to do is to make, “one consistent communication solution” that will be a single platform for a person to communicate on.

Please see the slides from the UC ecosystems keynote for a better view of their perspective of the market:

Calling features that will be included:

  • Calling
  • Transfer
  • Call Recording
  • Local and International DID’s
  • Voicemail w/Transcription
  • Call blocking – Initially at a company level, and possibly using AI in the future
  • E911 support – Initially with static address mapping per device/DID

PBX Features:

  • Auto Attendant – Time of day based IVR and routing
  • Call Queues – Which you can setup hunt groups of users with different routing options
  • Device support and Provisioning for OpenSip Phones like Polycom, and Yealink
  • Call Logs
  • Common Area Phones

How the service will be packaged is not final yet, but here is what Zoom is thinking as of today:

The Zoom Voice Service is based on named licensed Zoom Users. The PBX functionality is automatically included for all internal calling within Zoom.

If you want to enabled a user for Zoom Voice, you have three basic options for the user:

  1. Choose a Zoom Voice Plan – A usage based plan or bundled of minutes plan, enabled per user (including a DID).
  2. Bring your own voice Service directly from a phone company – you can setup a SIP Trunk directly from your phone company and use your existing contract.
  3. Bring your own SIP Trunk – Via the internet or via private link into Zoom. Route calls into zoom via a supported SBC (I assume AudioCodes, Ribbon, and a few others).

As for pricing, nothing has been announced just yet.

Zoom has said the following so far:

If you want outside connectively, you can either choose a Zoom plan, or there will be a per user nominal fee to use an external SIP trunk either via your own or via a carrier.

Additional Add-Ons will be thing like:

  • Additional DID’s
  • Blocks of Minutes
  • Toll Free Numbers
  • Common Area Phones
  • Media Storage

As for the Roadmap of when this product will be available:

Zoom is targeting the first half of 2019 for general availability of Zoom Voice, with rolling out to additional countries throughout the year.

During the session there were a number of questions asked:

Are you doing contact center? No, not right now. We are partnering with other cloud contact center providers where you can land a call on us as an endpoint.

Support Fax? Probably no eFax initially other than connecting via an ATA device. However we welcome feedback.

Dial Plan support? They are working on getting it into the initial release, but nothing to announce at this time.

Advanced Routing? They are scoping what required, but nothing to announce at this time.

Other Zoom Announcements

For other announcements please see the official Zoom blog post as they provide a great overview on it:

https://blog.zoom.us/wordpress/2018/10/11/zoom-expands-communications-platform-zoom-voice-app-marketplace-zoom-rooms-partnerships-more/

I like all of the announcements, but here are some of the features I like the most:

  • Audio Signature – Fingerprinting audio for keeping meetings more confidential
  • Zoom Rooms – Multi-Share
  • Zoom Rooms – Enterprise Management
  • Zoom Rooms – Start on Mobile

Conference Review:

The conference as a whole was fantastic. The visual appeal and conference production was very well done. Overall it was a pleasant experience. It was fun to see a lot of familiar faces, and a lot of customers looking at the Zoom platform. I can tell a bunch of us are in the same place with Cisco/Microsoft, and are looking for a fresh approach that we got at this conference.

The only notes I have:

  • Food was great this year! Keep it up!
  • The concert at the end was great. The artist was a great pick, and generally a great evening.
  • Why was the keynote not first thing on day one? It was very weird. Next year hopefully it will be a full two day event as you will need to cover all the voice sessions. Also the keynote sets the stage for sessions with new announcements.
  • The account manger support and executive sessions I was in were great!
  • Zoom needs to split the conference sessions into two or three major tracks: a beginner sessions, and advanced product manager announcement sessions and make it clear. As someone who is pretty much an expert on the platform, I wanted to hear what is new, and the context around announcements being made. Not 101 sessions. I would not have guessed that UC Ecosystems was the Zoom Voice talk until I walked into it. Or that Simon Booth would be in the third-party endpoints interop session talking about product.
  • If you make your wifi network name ‘wickedlyfastwifi’ – Make sure you actually use a real conference wifi vendor that uses Xirrus style high density AP’s, and has proper bandwidth. As wifi was a joke this year.
  • The guest speaker that tried to reinforce the ‘Trust’ point really should have just been cut out of the keynote. Sorry marketing team it was the only miss of the entire keynote. Eric could have reinforced the point much better for 5-10 minutes at the end of his speech. Then throw it to the product team to reinforce it with the new product introductions. It would have been a million times better.

-Kevin