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Eyes on the Enterprise: Brave New Platforms

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Am I the only one who gets a case of déjà vu watching business webcasts these days? Let’s face it—most corporate online multimedia presentations have a "been there, done that" vibe to them. In one corner of the computer screen, you get the video of a talking-head executive. Next to that, you see the PowerPoint slides being used in the executive’s presentation. If you’re lucky, you might have a place to submit questions or send an email displayed somewhere on the screen as well. This template for corporate online multimedia presentations has achieved the seemingly impossible: It has transformed the one-time novelty of web video into a utilitarian business tool.

That’s not an entirely terrible outcome. It’s merely a reflection of corporate demands. Businesses, government agencies, and educational institutions all find the best use of this technology comes in internal communications applications, such as executive presentations and employee training. The boxy, boring template that is the emblem of today’s business webcasting market suits those needs extremely well.

For years, the standardized template for corporate online multimedia content creation has forced marketplace innovation under the hood. The bulk of webcasts look the same on screen, so vendors have worked to differentiate themselves with enhanced behind-the-scenes technology in the form of improved audience tracking and content management technologies.

For better or worse, content creation in recent years has devolved into a commodity in the corporate sector. But significant change is on the horizon for the developers of content creation tools and services.

In a survey of 1,212 corporate executives conducted by Interactive Media Strategies in the second quarter of 2008, respondents were asked to detail the applications that are likely to draw more investment through the rest of this year and into 2009. Among the companies that represent the best customers for vendors in this technology market—those organizations spending more than $100,000 annually on online multimedia capabilities—executive training and employee training are no longer being targeted as the primary drivers of new application growth. Rather, the greatest level of interest lies in implementing applications associated with outbound business communications, such as marketing presentations, product launch events, and ecommerce.

As the wallets of these big customers move into new, largely uncharted territory, their demands for content creation tools are likely to evolve as well. The communications priorities behind a marketing presentation are different from those of an employee training session. Companies that spend heavily on online multimedia will begin intently looking for innovation in content creation tools and services that help them to better achieve their outbound communications goals. With the incentive of leading customers well-defined, it is reasonable to expect more vendors to begin developing content creation capabilities tuned specifically to address the demands of these most-coveted customers.

Already, we’re seeing examples of innovation from vendors that offer more flexibility in the on-screen user experience. More and more platforms are offering new options for merging multiple video feeds into a single on-screen interface. Others provide viewers more control than ever before in zooming in on a specific portion of an on-screen slide or other data points integrated into a presentation.

And we can fully expect innovation to continue its bloom as vendors target ever-smaller slices of the corporate online multimedia sector. An emerging class of hosted software-as-a-service solutions will make it more economically feasible for technology developers to create features tuned to specific industry verticals. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, for instance, to anticipate one vendor developing a hosted solution to address content creation issues unique to the residential real estate industry. Templates could be developed that highlight key property information, then marry that information with a video walkthrough of a home captured on a digital camera or cell phone.

Other vendors could develop content creation tools that simplify the process of creating integrated rich media presentations for pharmaceutical companies promoting their drugs to doctors, or they could create a service that simplifies the process for hotels and vacation properties to assemble and present rich media information packages to would-be tourists.

We see renewed growth opportunities for technologies that enable the productive use of online video. For the companies that make a living selling web video technologies, that’s a welcome case of déjà vu.

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