Dialpad Gets a Highfive and Ends the Video-only Era

This week cloud communications provider Dialpad announced it has acquired video conferencing company Highfive to add room-based video to its portfolio of services that includes computer-based video meetings.

For those not familiar with Dialpad, the company has a cloud-native communications platform released in 2014. Its platform is very advanced and addresses the needs of the modern worker with a slick mobile offering as well as a strong contact center offering. The founder of Dialpad, Craig Walker, is also one of the creators of Google Voice and Yahoo Voice. 

Highfive extends Dialpad in conference rooms

Despite its strong portfolio, one of the things it lacked was the ability to extend the Dialpad experience into conference rooms. This is where Highfive comes in. The video specialist has been a disruptor in the market with its own cloud-native platform. It has its own meetings platform, but its strength is its SIP connector that lets it interoperate with any SIP based video provider which includes BlueJeans, Zoom and Cisco.

It doesn’t interoperate with Microsoft Teams yet because Teams is WebRTC based, but–in typical Microsoft fashion–it hasn’t opened up its API yet, limiting interoperability. With Highfive, Dialpad can deliver video meetings to people at homes, huddle rooms (six or fewer people) and conference spaces. 

Like Dialpad, Highfive was born in the microservices era and has a true, cloud native platform, making it much more agile than an older cloud provider, like BlueJeans. This lets the company innovate and deliver new features faster. Also, Dialpad’s solution is optimized for mobile, as is Highfive’s, making the two products very synergistic. Lots of companies could have bought Highfive, but Dialpad’s architecture should allow it to integrate it quickly. 

Dialpad is buying Highfive at a video inflection point 

The acquisition is well timed for Dialpad, because video rooms should see a boost when people come back to the office. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way people communicate with co-workers from being voice-centric to video-first. If anyone needs proof of this, Zoom just announced its FY20 second quarter financials, and it saw growth of 355% compared to last year. Make no mistake: The video-first workstyle is here to stay. 

One of the cyclic trends that should pay dividends for Dialpad with Highfive is the blending of virtual and physical meetings. Even once people come back to the office, not everyone will be returning to the office at once. Schools are currently having students come back to the classrooms two days a week but need to attend via video the other days. This is what most offices will look like, and companies will need to let the in-office people collaborate with those out of the office and that will be done over video. 

Video will soon be better than in-person meetings 

There’s a bigger trend afoot here, and that’s video systems are getting smarter and creating better experiences. It used to be said that video was almost as good as being there live, but we are rapidly approaching a scenario where video-based meetings will be better than in-person events. Real-time transcription capabilities, facial recognition, translation, voice analytics and other AI-based features are coming, and they will provide participants with information that one can’t get in a face-to-face meeting. This means that even when people meet in person, it’s likely they’ll flip on their favorite video solution to access those innovative features.

A good analogy is the difference between watching football on TV versus in the stadium. When one is viewing it from the comfort of their living room, the TV feed provides a wealth of data, including super-imposed first down lines, player stats and more. 

When in the stadium, it’s very tough to understand where the ball is located, say, from a third-level seat. Ideally, the NFL would find a way of blending the two experiences, where a fan could hold up a mobile device and hover over the field to get information. This is what Dialpad could deliver into the conference room with the addition of Highfive. 

Highfive acquisition ends the video-only era 

Another interesting aspect of this acquisition is that Highfive was the last, standalone video service ending the era of the video specialist. One might argue Zoom is a video only company but that’s incorrect. Zoom has added messaging and phones. BlueJeans was recently acquired by Verizon to become part of the telcos broader collaboration tool set. Over the years, Vidyo, Acano and others have been acquired by larger companies and Highfive was the last. 

This trend is creating a collision course for all the collaboration vendors. RingCentral recently built its own video service as has Avaya; Vonage has built a single stack that can now deliver all forms of collaboration, including rich video. 

Microsoft has added calling and video to Teams. I believe the days of customers paying for vendor A for calling, vendor B for messaging and vendor C for video is rapidly coming to an end. After years and years of promise, we now have real unified communications; businesses will likely choose one to be its primary platform, and video experience will be one of the most important decision criteria. 

Cisco Systems’ former CEO, John Chambers, used to say that “video is the new voice.” That didn’t happen a decade ago because the systems (such as Cisco’s TelePresence in 2006, Polycom and others) were too siloed from the other collaboration tools. Applications such as Highfive are easy to use and integrated into other systems, removing all the barriers. 

All we needed was a reason to try the video again; COVID-19 gave us that reason. Video will continue its strong growth, and Dialpad is now positioned well to ride this wave.

Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.

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