WebRTC business models (and impressions from WebRTC Expo 2013 – East)

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WebRTC, WebRTC, WebRTC. I just returned from 3 days of WebRTC. Nothing but WebRTC. I was right there, in the eye of what probably is the heaviest hype storm of the communications industry at the moment. It was interesting to see which businesses were there, jumping the bandwagon of realtime communications brought to “the Web”, and also who wasn’t there (traditional communications service providers and mobile carriers, for instance). A LOT of startups. And quite a few incumbents, too. A few impressive show cases of what’s going to be possible, but even more “me-too’s”.

It became obvious at the Expo that there clearly is a correlation between the maturity of a market and the ability of conference speakers to handle the microphone. Speakers at the WebRTC Expo were exceptionally bad with the microphone – showing that WebRTC is still predominantly a techie play, not yet a solutions play. Otherwise we would have seen more marketers speak, who know that you are supposed to speak INTO a microphone, not wave it around as you’re gesticulating to try to make your point.

However, for something that is a techie play, and – even more importantly – NOT a mobile-first initiative, the interest in WebRTC is surprising. But don’t get me wrong – it entirely makes sense (for Google, above anyone…) and will definitely happen. The question is just when, and how.

To get to the topic of my blog post: I want to provide a classification of current vendors that deal with WebRTC, hoping that it can help you get an idea of who’s playing what.

I see 5 main categories of vendors in the WebRTC realm. The companies I will be listing as examples are only those that had a presence at the WebRTC Expo.

1) Media Engine and Gateway vendors
These are companies that offer gateways and engines for transcoding, trans-rating, trans-sizing of video/audio codecs, whether at small(ish) scale or largest possible scale (carrier-level). VB8 is new, H.264 the incumbent. No agreement on codec = their business model. No startups here, unsurprisingly. This is where the rubber meets the road.

Examples:

  • Audiocodes
  • Dialogic
  • Radisys

2) API and SDK vendors
These are companies that primarily provide APIs and SDKs to help developers implement WebRTC solutions. They all offer a hosted infrastructure (mostly on the shoulders of existing PaaS/IaaS vendors such as Amazon), and some provide their packages for on-premise deployments as well. This category shows a good mix of startups and established companies.

Examples:

  • Apidaze
  • Bistri
  • Crocodile
  • Quobis
  • Voxeo Labs

3) Full Stack Platform vendors
These are either hosting providers (PaaS) or software/hardware providers offering the full stack of technology needed for running WebRTC solutions incl. STUN/TURN, media engines, gateways, presence, etc. These companies typically sell to service providers (B2B). Again, no surprise: almost no startups. These vendors have a legacy of VoIP and networking expertise and technology.

Examples:

  • Genband
  • Ingate Systems
  • Mavenir
  • Oracle/ACME Packets
  • Sansay
  • Temasys Communications
  • TokBox
  • Xirsys

4) Solution Providers
These are (primarily) cloud vendors that provide specific solutions or applications (horizontal and vertical) around WebRTC. Most startups are to be found in this category. Use cases primarily group around the contact center/customer service, and video conferencing.

Examples

  • Avaya (as it relates to customer service and contact center)
  • Bistri (hosted Click-to-talk-to-me service)
  • Bolder Thinking (click-to-talk solution embedded in a hosted contact center)
  • CDE/Browsetel (click-to-talk solution embedded in a hosted contact center)
  • Genesys (click-to-talk solution embedded in a hosted contact center)
  • popexpert (expert finding and connecting service)
  • Presence Technology (click-to-talk solution embedded in a hosted contact center)
  • Priologic Software/tawk.com (free video conferencing service)
  • Requestec (video conferencing service, collaboration service, video contact center)
  • Solaborate (social networking and collaboration platform)
  • vLine (video conferencing service)
  • Weemo (video conferencing service)

5) Professional Services companies
These companies primarily provide app dev and SI expertise around WebRTC deployments

Examples:

  • Daitan Group
  • Priologic Software
  • Quobis
  • Requestec

For most incumbents, adding WebRTC to their portfolio is a natural, logical, and easy move. None of them have to change their business model to support it. WebRTC is an evolution after all, not a revolution – it doesn’t really enable applications that weren’t possible before. Which of the startups will survive of course depends on a multitude of factors, among them differentiation and … what Apple will do. Total number of users will be more important for the social network-type solutions (like Solaborate).

Where will it go? We will see. See you at the next expo to find out…