Video Conferencing Systems: What Is Native Mode And Why It’s Important
Unified Communications (UC) describes the interconnection of communication platforms like video conferencing, chat, phone and file sharing. The UC industry is evolving rapidly. And while this creates excellent opportunities to improve virtual communication across your business, it also presents an overwhelming number of options and choices. What is the best UC Platform for your business? Which brands provide the most flexibility or greatest value? What is the end user experience?
In this blog series you’ll learn about the meeting space technologies which support Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other leading UC systems so you can make the right purchase decision for your business. First, we’ll dive into the hardware solutions that are running Native UC Platform modes.
Hardware Running Native UC Platform Modes
Even as cloud-based and mobile options grow, hardware is still an important component for many UC Platforms. The system usually lives in a dedicated conference room, providing easy access for group calls. High quality cameras and microphones also ensure a consistent experience.
UC hardware often runs in “Native Mode,” meaning that the built-in Windows/Mac or Android compute is running a single UC Platform application such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. The system is “locked in” to that platform. This is a great option if your business is already using a soft client version on employees’ laptops, as you essentially just extend this experience to the meeting room. Employees can then make a Zoom call from their laptops, or a Zoom call from a conference room’s dedicated “Native” platform. They are already familiar with the UI and so the transition to a hardware version feels seamless.
If you go with this hardware option, there are 2 types of operating systems that can run in Native Mode:
- Windows / Mac-based systems were the first to develop. Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet can all run on Windows 10 or Mac OS computes to create a dedicated application-based native UC solution. All of these solutions have HDMI connectivity for content sharing, but not all have USB connectivity.
- Android-based systems — More recently developed, these devices come embedded with an Android-based compute that can run native UC platform apps. Some examples are the collaboration bars by Poly and Logitech, or the all-in-one display DTEN. The advantage of using a Android-based system is the USB connectivity. This greatly increases the flexibility of the system by enabling “BYOD” compatibility.
Cross-platform and “BYOD” Compatibility
A common hesitation with getting “locked in” to a single Native platform is the loss of flexibility. What if your business uses Teams but you have major customers that prefer Zoom? Luckily, there is a rise in cross-platform and “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) compatibility. While not available with all hardware-based UC Platforms, it’s worth exploring what’s available and if that could work for your business.
Cross-Platform: The ability to dial across different platforms is developing, although there are still several limitations. The common communication technology that platforms currently leverage is WebRTC, a browser-based video connection. However, WebRTC only allows 720p resolution, single display, and content receive (not send). If these limitations work for you, here are some current options for cross-platform compatibility (if they don’t then take a look at our upcoming blog for another UC option!):
- Microsoft Teams has “Direct Guest Join” to enable 3rd party conferences. When enabled, you can use a Teams Rooms device to join meetings hosted on Cisco WebEx and Zoom.
- Zoom Rooms can be invited to meetings with Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts or BlueJeans.
BYOD: With BYOD compatibility, anyone can plug into the UC system via a USB port and essentially host a meeting off their laptop while taking advantage of the system’s higher quality cameras and microphones. This enables a larger group to participate in a meeting, even if it’s on a different UC platform than the conference room’s primary Native platform.
- Android-based systems tend to have the USB connectivity required for BYOD compatibility. One major exception is the Microsoft Teams App, which does not have USB or HDMI content modes, although both are on the roadmap.
- Some Windows-based systems can switch into “modes” that allow users to plug in a laptop or USB peripherals, such as a collaboration bar, camera, mic, or speakers.UC Systems like Crestron Flex, Logitech’s “Swytch” mode create BYOD functionality from a Windows OS solution.
More Pros & Cons
Here are some final pros and cons to investing in hardware running Native UC Platform applications:
- Familiar UI - The hardware UI is the same as the soft client version that users are familiar with on their laptops and mobile devices. Since the UI experience is identical, the learning curve is practically non-existent.
- Contact Directory and Calendar integration with standardized UC platform
- Licensing ties into existing UC subscriptions, which can make this option more affordable than investing in a totally new system.
- Lose cloud platform agnostic approach, since you can’t dial and receive from anybody.
- Less flexible: Dedicated appliances are for the specified UC platform only, which forces reliance on that platform’s interoperability with other platforms. As mentioned above, several UC platforms are increasing their cross-platform and BYOD compatibility, so this option will become more flexible in the near future.
Next Up: SIP / Standard Endpoints and Cloud Video Interop (CVI)
Next we will look at SIP / Standard endpoints and Cloud Video Interop (CVI). This option provides greater flexibility if you want to leverage existing SIP or H.323 video conferencing systems and not be locked into a single UC platform.