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Is Zoom, Doomed?

Something Shifted From Zoom. 

I had something of an epiphany last week when I needed to have a 2-hour end-of-year virtual meeting with my team at Dotsavvy. Since we use Google Meet for the majority of our meetings as we subscribe to Google Workspace, this has been our go-to platform since the COVID-19 pandemic and we shifted to a full-time remote working model. 

We are still not yet back in the office for almost 4 years since the pandemic happened. That being said, at some point, during the pandemic, we did start using Zoom for many internal and external (read: client) meetings as well as using it for webinars for client engagements. 

Zoom Becomes A Verb, Just Like Google, Imagine That!

Now, Zoom, which even became a verb for all virtual meetings even if they were on other platforms like Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, for me at least, is no longer top of mind. I believe this is the case for many organizations globally except in the scenario where Zoom is still often used as the go-to platform for webinars. I will explain why shortly.

I first became aware of Zoom as a virtual meeting platform probably around 2016 or 2017 when one of our clients in Rwanda started using it for our meetings. I didn’t see much in it at the time since we often used platforms like Skype (remember that one?), Google Meet, and WhatsApp for calls or meetings. For the most part, in that pre-pandemic era, most of us had meetings in person unless the attendees were geographically in different places which made it impossible. 

The pandemic changed things dramatically and for some reason, probably since it was super easy to use and have meetings, Zoom became the go-to platform for that period. Zoom’s uptake escalated dramatically on a global basis as did its revenues and market cap. Zoom could do no wrong during the pandemic and we gladly used it for everything like work meetings, webinars, weddings, job interviews, dating, birthday parties, funerals, and everything else in between.

Change Is The Only Constant, Even For Zoom. 

However, during the last couple of years, Zoom simply isn’t as essential as it was during the pandemic for two fundamental reasons. The first is that the majority of organizations that took to it like ducks to water have either returned to the office or have adopted a hybrid working model meaning it is not as essential as it once was. 

The other is that the competing platforms that are out there like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have become good enough as replacements for Zoom. Now, the second part of this rationale is what I believe is ultimately ‘killing’ Zoom. The reason is that Zoom has become a casualty is the technology services concept known as ‘bundling’.

Microsoft’s Perfection of ‘Bundling’ During The Browser Wars Is Instructive For Zoom’s Current Scenario. 

The first technology brand that I can think of that made bundling a strategic imperative for any platform or digital ecosystem that had become successful was Microsoft. Back in the day, over 25 years ago, at a time when the Internet as we know was very nascent, Microsoft was undoubtedly the most dominant consumer and business-focused technology brand in the world. 

During the largely desktop era that was the case at the time, Microsoft’s Windows Operating System (OS) was licensed to all of the world’s leading Personal Computer to PC manufacturers. It was what everyone used at work, school, and home. On top of that, Microsoft Office was also fast growing as the leading productivity suite. 

However, the Internet changed everything when Netscape launched its Navigator web browser which unleashed the web and in the process moved it from being something that only techies used to something the whole world including your Mum could use. This web 1.0 era was where Netscape took an early lead to Microsoft’s dismay.

Microsoft, who were often referred to as ‘The Beast from Redmond’ at the time took notice and realized that the Internet, thanks to the fast-growing popularity of Netscape’s Navigator web browser saw a threat and opportunity given that they controlled the Windows OS on the PC.

In response, Microsoft quickly cobbled up its Internet Explorer web browser and installed it on Windows for free by bundling it. Internet Explorer was horrible compared to Netspace Navigator, at first, but over successive iterations, it became considerably better and eventually rose to become the dominant web browser globally. 

This period in the world’s technology timeline became known as the ‘Browser Wars’ and Netscape essentially lost out as their Navigator web browser was at one point sold whereas Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the default web browser on millions of Windows-based PCs globally. 

This concept of Microsoft ‘bundling’ Internet Explorer via their Windows OS for free was a masterstroke that allowed them to remain relevant and eat even more market share for their offerings. We often call this ‘network effects’ where a product or service becomes used by more and more people when the majority of people are already using it — it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

Zoom’s Conundrum & Ensuing ‘Death Watch’ Made Possible By ‘Good Enough’ Competitors. 

So, let’s get back to Zoom’s current conundrum, and to some extent their ‘death watch’ following their massive success during the pandemic. Zoom is what we call a ‘one trick pony’ meaning that they only do one or two things really well which in this instance is virtual meetings and webinars. However, you also have to pay for Zoom as a standalone offering if you are using it in a professional or work-related context so having free meetings that last only 40 minutes simply won’t work in this context. 

Meanwhile, Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams have bundled Google Meet and Microsoft Teams as part of their offerings at no additional cost. This is where Zoom is probably doomed as these competing propositions are good enough for most businesses and to boot they have most if not all the same features even if they can be clunky by comparison based on the fact they are not as laser focussed on virtual meetings or webinars in the same way that Zoom is. This is the very nature of digital disruption where a good enough offering supplants a dominant and really excellent incumbent because the premium to use them simply isn’t compelling enough.

So, going back to my end-of-year meeting last week, the two features that sparked this blog post are that Google Meet on the paid version of Google Workspace now allows you to record the video aspect of meetings as well as text transcriptions at no additional cost to the subscription fees that we have been paying to-date. In addition, it stands to reason that in due course, additional features like Google’s Gemini platform for Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) features and functionalities will eventually become available, for free. 

Meanwhile, unless something fundamentally transformative happens, Zoom will never be able to compete with Microsoft’s and/or Google’s respective digital ecosystems from this perspective. The die is cast and quite honestly even if Zoom survives for the long term I am seriously doubtful that they will ever reach the epic heights they did during their pandemic moment of success when they ruled the virtual meetings roost. Bundling can be a massive and disruptive game changer when it comes to all things digital and Zoom seems to be the next big technology casualty in this regard. 

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