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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Report update: WebRTC market expanding and maturing, but in unexpected ways

I've just published a major update to the Disruptive Analysis WebRTC Market Status & Forecast report, which originally came out in September 2014. The update revises the key forecasts, and considers the shifts in industry structure and use-case that I've been seeing & talking about recently.

The headline numbers: 6.7bn devices are forecast to support WebRTC (on a broadly-defined basis) by the end of 2019. At that point, there are expected to be 2bn active consumer users, and 900m business users of WebRTC (with considerable overlap).

But digging beyond the updated market forecasts, it's important to recognise some key underlying trends:

  • The definition of "WebRTC" is becoming blurry. ORTC, app-embedded WebRTC, plug-ins, 3rd-party PaaS & SDKs etc. are changing the landscape. However, only the purists really care - others just exploit the "democratisation" of creating comms apps and capabilities more easily
  • In numerical terms, mobile implementations of WebRTC are starting to out-accelerate desktop browser-based ones, outside the enterprise. This favours either sophisticated developers able to build apps around the various WebRTC client frameworks, or those using 3rd-party PaaS solutions
  • Many "big names" have launched WebRTC products and services in recent months, ranging from Cisco & Avaya, to AT&T, Tata and Facebook. This is a strong endorsement of the technology - and often integrated with a parallel shift to cloud-based services.
  • Developer mindshare is increasing - helped by hackathons and presence at vertical events - but many in the web/app world remain unaware of WebRTC's potential. Enterprise comms professionals seem much more aware of it.
  • While contact-centres are still the major WebRTC hotspot in enterprise, there is growing interest in mobile customer-service apps, and video-integrated collaboration tools. This overlaps the trend towards cloud-based apps, as well as new styles of corporate messaging / social-timeline approaches to communication.
  • This is driving the "disunification" of business comms, as I discussed about 3 months ago. WebRTC-based DUC will grow much faster than WebRTC-based UC, although that has large potential too. There will be >300m business DUC users by 2019.
  • The market for vendors selling WebRTC gateways (telco/enterprise) or commercial WebRTC platform-as-a-service is comparatively slow-moving, but starting to pick up steam. The last 6 months has seen considerable advances in uptake of "interoperable" use-cases. 
  • However, developers often have a variety of open-source alternatives - and there is a growing suspicion that PaaS indirectly competes with vendor-driven products. Indeed, some vendors now have their own PaaS platform (Genband Kandy, Digium Respoke, Acision Forge etc).
  • There are now more than 10 telecom operators with some sort of commercial implementation involving WebRTC, with several more with well-advanced plans and prototypes that Disruptive Analysis is aware of. Some have multiple initiatives
  • For major consumer web services, WebRTC is creeping in, often with limited tests and deployments for obscure user groups - such as Facebook's video-messaging for Chromebook users. It's still unclear if Whatsapp's long-awaited voice service is based on WebRTC or not. 
In other words, there is a lot of noise and action - and indeed growing usage - but comparatively little hard cash at the moment. However, that is starting to change - CafeX's recent funding round is a good indicator, while discussions with vendors & PaaS players have shown growing awareness of better marketing and partnerships. This is also not unusual - there was a considerable lag between people using the web in its early days, and anyone (beyond ISPs) making real money from services or application infrastructure.

Ultimately, WebRTC is a technology which lowers the bar for both true innovators, and others doing today's services more easily/cheaply. In many cases, WebRTC adds value to something else - whether it's extending the reach of a conferencing system, or helping reduce churn by better customer-service. 

Overall, Disruptive Analysis remains bullish about the technology, both in the short-to-medium term, and in the long run as it converges with cloud, contextual communications and even aspects of IoT. WebRTC remains a fundamentally disruptive technology, and its ramifications are only at the first stage of being realised.

The new update is sold along with the full "reference report" from September, plus a one-hour briefing call and additional update later in the year. Contents and pricing/ordering details are here

I'll also be speaking or moderating at various upcoming WebRTC-related events:
Lastly, if you have any questions, or represent a WebRTC company or user, interested in setting up a briefing with me, please contact me via information AT disruptive-analysis DOT com

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