The video conferencing apps have taken the spotlight in India and in many other countries across the world due to COVID-19 pandemic. Several companies in India and abroad have enforced Work-from-Home policies from March that resulted in a spike in downloads of remote work and video conferencing apps on the Google Play and App Store. While many expected Skype to thrive in the conditions custom made for the app, it was the Zoom Video Conferencing that emerged as default go-to app for many people around the world.
Sensor Tower, a company that offers market insights on global app economy, said in its second quarter Data Digest report that Zoom emerged as the top app by downloads on a global scale. It was said that Zoom was only the third app to hit 300 million installs in a quarter, joining TikTok and Pokemon GO. Sensor Tower said that Zoom “shattered the record” for App Store installs with nearly 94 million installs in a quarter. Further, Zoom installs on Google Play is said to have increased 200% quarter-over-quarter.
In India, Sensor Tower said that Zoom had over 68 million installs while the app witnessed 41 million installs in the US market in the second quarter ended June 30, 2020.
While on paper, Zoom covered all the bases by emerging as the default go-to app for video conferencing solution, the company behind the scenes had to deal with privacy issues. In late March, it emerged that Zoom app doesn’t support end-to-end encryption even as Zoom stated on its website that it supports such a protocol. The end-to-end encryption ensures that conversations are protected with no access to anyone including that of a company and is found on platforms like WhatsApp and Signal. In April, the Indian government in an advisory said that the Zoom “is not for use by Government officers/officials for official purposes.” Additionally, the union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued guidelines to private individuals for using the Zoom app.
With that, several other players entered the fray with a new product or expanded the capabilities of their existing product to grab the market share from Zoom including Google and Jio Platforms. Google in May said that its Google Meet, originally designed to offer “secure business meetings” would be available for everyone for free. The company in May said that it hosts three billion minutes of video meetings each single day on its Google Meet platform.
Jio Platforms, the holding company of Indian telecom operator Reliance Jio officially launched its JioMeet platform in early July after months of testing. Following the launch of JioMeet, several users took to social media to point out the similarities between JioMeet and Zoom Video Conferencing app. The similarities between the JioMeet and Zoom app included identical landing screen and identical design of the Meeting pages along with Contacts, About page and My Profile section. Additionally, JioMeet highlighted that the app collects personal information such as “name, age, gender, contact information, products and services you are interested in” from an user. Further, the developers highlighted that the data collected by JioMeet will be shared with “affiliates” along with “external organizations” and “individuals.”
With the market seemingly open to additional players, Airtel in mid July announced a strategic alliance with Verizon, New York based communications company to introduce BlueJeans Video conferencing app in India. BlueJeans, Verizon’s “enterprise-grade video conferencing service” is said to aid people in communicating and collaborating across mobile, desktop, browser and conference rooms.
Airtel sad that India is “witnessing a massive surge in demand for enterprise grade video conferencing tools as Work From Home and virtual meetings become the new normal.” The company said that the alliance between Airtel and Verizon will “address the need for seamless and secure business collaboration as organizations move from office-based work to work from anywhere.”
“BlueJeans’ enterprise-level security features include meeting lock, secure transmission and storage, randomized meeting IDs, participant passcodes, fraud detection, and a variety of authentication options,” Airtel said in a release in July. “The platform uses open, proven standards for security as well as the WebRTC and HTML5 standards for browser-based access, enabling users to participate in meetings and events without requiring software downloads, a key requirement in some secure environments.”
While the words from Airtel and Verizon on the “enterprise-level security” sounds great on paper, Mozilla Foundation in a report said that “BlueJeans seems to do a fine job with security.” Mozilla, a not-for-profit organization behind the Firefox browser said in April that BlueJeans was among the 12 video conferencing apps that met its minimum security standards.
“It doesn’t use end-to-end encryption, but it still uses strong encryption and has the ability to require passwords to access meeting to stop the dreaded ‘zoombombing’,” Mozilla Foundation said on the BlueJeans app.
Crucially, Airtel also highlights that the data transmitted through the Airtel BlueJeans app is hosted locally in India “for a better video conferencing experience.”
Airtel highlights that Airtel BlueJeans delivers Dolby Voice along with high-definition (HD) video with the app providing “award-winning multimedia experience” that ensures users witness “amazing audio and visual clarity.”
During our time with the Airtel BlueJeans app, the app did produce higher quality video and audio experience as compared to its rivals. Multiple BlueJeans users told this writer on Twitter that the app is the “best amongst all” and that it delivers “crystal clear sound and great video.” The app also features a low bandwidth mode that is designed to aid those users on the mobile data.
The company highlights that the Airtel BlueJeans app enables “users to schedule, join and host meetings with one touch and within just six seconds from anywhere, on any device.”
It has to be noted that the app is designed for enterprise users and not for consumers. While the regular consumer focused video conferencing app provides real simplicity for regular consumers, the enterprise users on the BlueJeans app can schedule meetings at a rapid pace.
The homescreen on the Airtel BlueJeans app offers users to schedule a meeting, join a meeting or start a meeting. The users hoping to schedule a meeting need to select the relevant option and enter the meeting title, add a description, select the time slot and enter the email addresses of the participants. The users can also schedule and join a meeting with Meeting ID and Participant Passcode.
The hosts also have an array of controls including selecting a people view layout, enabling auto-recording, screen share, crop video and disable chat messaging. Additionally, the hosts can also mute participants automatically on entry and turn off participant’s video on entry automatically. The standard features like muting a participant’s audio and video during a meeting are also available on the Airtel BlueJeans app. The screen share feature is also available on desktop and mobile app variants with the participants having the features to share the complete screen or a particular desktop tab.
It is said that the Airtel BlueJeans enables users to host and manage live interactive events, town halls and webcasts for up to 50,000 attendees. Further, the Airtel BlueJeans enables users to launch or join meetings directly from a variety of applications including Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook,Office 365, Google Calendar, Slack, Splunk and Trello.
The Smart Meetings feature enables participants to highlight specific moments in the meetings for the app to capture the “most important discussion points” for users to catch-up quickly on a meeting.
The company also has “Dial-in Plans” that is designed to cut down on India dial-in cost with Airtel promising “unmatched coverage” through “convenient dial-in options” for over 120 countries.
From a regular consumer point of view, the Airtel BlueJeans might not sound as a tempting option considering the number of alternatives already present in the space. While the app does offer a free trial of 90 days for new users, the enterprise BlueJeans users will have to switch over to custom curated plans post the free period. Several standard features including screen sharing that are often found on other video conferencing apps are more seamless elsewhere than on the Airtel BlueJeans apps.
However, as noted by regular BlueJeans users on Twitter, the app now emerges as a default go-to video conferencing app for the enterprise users due to its clean interface and security features. The app design is minimal and clean and the enterprise users swamped with multiple tasks would prefer this over the rival apps. Airtel also offers “fully managed 24×7 support services” for the Airtel BlueJeans app that enables enterprise users to troubleshoot the problems at a rapid pace as compared to several other rival apps.