Zoom Zoom Zoom: video and conference call platforms creating new online, digital and virtual world

May 18-24, 2020

By Daily Record Staff 


Besides allowing workers to set up remote offices in their homes because of COVID-19, non-frontline employers are adapting to virtual workplace environments due to ongoing social distancing restrictions on travel and face-to-face meetings. 


For that reason, conference call and virtual meeting applications like Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, Skype, Slack, Google Handouts,  Microsoft Teams and a rush of other video conference startups like Houseparty and Amazon Chime have recently entered the market to gain a share of one industry that has flourished during the current COVID-19 recession.


According to San Francisco-based Grand View Research Inc., the global video conferencing market size is expected to reach $8.56 billion by 2027, expanding at annual rate of 9.9% from 2020 to 2027. Growth of the telemedicine industry and increased penetration of online education in developed as well as emerging economies, such as U.K., U.S., Japan, India, and China, are anticipated to play a pivotal role in driving the demand for these systems over the forecast period. 


Similarly, video conferencing software and video chat applications have seen a huge surge in demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, video conferencing apps saw a record 62 million downloads. 


Much of the growth is due to increasing adoption of platforms like Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams and Zoom as businesses switched to remote working to limit the spread of the virus. Zoom was the most downloaded video conferencing app globally in February and March and it continues to see a high number of downloads across the U.S., European Union and United Kingdom.


At Zoom Communications Inc., which is based in San Jose, Calif., the former startup that has become synonymous with video conference recently announced several major financial and operation moves during the COVID-19 pandemic to bolster the company’s growth and market share.


After concerns and complaints that hackers had easily infiltrated Zoom business and family meetings and calls, the company on April 8 published a blog post by company founder and CEO Eric Yuan announcing a 90-day plan to better identify, address, and fix safety, privacy, and security issues on the video conferencing platform.  


That Zoom update also included the creation of a CISO Council and Advisory Board and the hiring of Alex Stamos, former Chief Security Officer of Facebook, as an outside advisor. In his blog post, Yuan noted Zoom’s recent spike in growth and user sign-ups during the COVID-19 pandemic.


“[We] are committed to ensuring that the safety, privacy, and security of our platform is worthy of the trust of all of our users — both new and existing,” Yuan promised.


As a part of that three-month security plan, the San Jose startup announced the availability of Zoom 5.0 encryption to address and enhance the security and privacy capabilities on its platform. “This takes our security features, existing and new, and puts them front and center for our meeting hosts. With millions of new users, this will make sure they have instant access to important security controls in their meetings,” said Zoom Chief Protection Officer Odel Gal on April 22.


On May 8, Zoom also announced that it had acquired Keybase, a secure messaging and file-sharing service that has 25 employees. Yuan said the acquisition of the tech firm’s exceptional team of security and encryption engineers will accelerate the company’s plan to build end-to-end encryption that can handle recent rush of new users and software downloads.


“There are end-to-end encrypted communications platforms. There are communications platforms with easily deployable security. There are enterprise-scale communications platforms. We believe that no current platform offers all of these. This is what Zoom plans to build, giving our users security, ease of use, and scale, all at once,” said Yuan. “The first step is getting the right team together. Keybase brings deep encryption and security expertise to Zoom, and we’re thrilled to welcome Max and his team. Bringing on a cohesive group of security engineers like this significantly advances our 90-day plan to enhance our security efforts.”


On the financial side of the company, Zoom’s stock has seen in incredible spike in 2020 amid the COVID-19, jumping 147% from $68.72 on Jan. 2 – just weeks before the first positive coronavirus was detected in the U.S. – to a high of $169.54 at the beginning of market on May 13.


That high interests in Zoom’s stock from investors ranging from the casual and millennial stock traders to Wall Street hedge funds has caused nearly two dozen top social media and technology forecasters to issue new or upgrade on the company’s stock rating and price target for the remainder of 2020. In an April 15 research note, Bank of America analyst Nicolay Beliov maintained his buy rating on the San Diego tech firm and upped his yearly price target to $165 per share.


“In our view, Zoom is a clear near- and long-term beneficiary in a post-COVID-19 world with potential for social distancing and work-from-home trends remaining for some time,” said the Wall Street forecaster. “We think there will be a fundamental change in both business and civilian life. This likely includes fewer in-person meetings/gatherings, large conferences/summits and less traveling to offices, creating natural demand for Zoom.”


Still, there are some downside risks to Zoom’s future growth and the overall video conferencing and chat market, said Beliov. The Bank of America analyst those dangers include the further erosion of the global economy, and competition from larger tech companies like Facebook, Cisco and Microsoft and newer startups that can capture market share.


The Bank of America analysts also noted that U.S.-China trade war poses some risk as a majority of engineers are based in China and under high protectionism Zoom may have to increase research and development spending to hire locally in the Silicon Valley region.


Businesses bolster digital offerings, virtual interactions


But the fast-growing video conference has not only changed the way individuals, families and businesses in Arkansas and across the U.S. hold virtual meetings, but it is also speeding up the adoption of the digital means to interact at home and work and impacting the way other industries operate day-to-day.


For example, the Little Rock Realtors Association recently sent out email alert to its local members encourage local real estate agents to stay in touch with clients and prospective homebuyers online, by video and by holding virtual home tours.


“Virtual tours are especially helpful at this time. As people are encouraged to stay at home, it can be tricky if not impossible to go and look at a property in person,” said LRRA, led by executive director Libby Sheard. “With a virtual tour, a buyer can have a look around a property as if they’re on a private showing, but without ever leaving their own home.”


LRRA also noted that hiring a professional photographer and videographer to come to a property for sale is still possible even with the social distancing guidelines. “Just make sure to observe quarantine measures in place,” said the local realtors association.


A recent May 13 survey commissioned by AI-powered personalization platform Kameleoon and opinion research firm Widerfunnel found that while time spent online has skyrocketed by 37%, some consumers won’t go back to offline channels – nearly a third (29%) said they’ll be using digital channels more COVID-19 post-crisis. Just 14% said they would switch back to instore shopping.


The study also found that how brands behave moving forward will have a major impact on future revenues. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers said the COVID-19 experience will change who they bought from, and how much they spent in the future. The survey also said those that do provide a personalized experience now will benefit long-term, noting 42% said they would spend less or switch completely from brands that had not delivered during the crisis.


“The current crisis is accelerating the importance of digital to all of our lives, changing people’s habits and spending for good,” said Kameleoon CEO Jean-Rene Boidron. 


PHOTO CAPTION:  (Photos courtesy of Zoom)


Remote workforce, video conferencing, digital platforms to change the way Arkansas and most Americans communicate, work and play post-COVID-19.