Although not enormous when compared with other telecom equipment segments, the market for tabletop audio-conferencing products has developed steadily over the last 20 years, providing participating manufacturers and their channel partners with a regular and healthy income stream.
“While new developments in connectivity, such as IP and wireless, have offered new ways for makers to differentiate themselves and to add price premiums, the emergence of cheaper VoIP alternatives from ClearOne, Polycom, Logitech, Phoenix Audio and others has the potential to upset the apple cart,” says Frost & Sullivan Senior Analyst Dominic Dodd (conferencing.frost.com). “A lot of the growth in demand for this new category of hands-free communications product will come from mobile workers, freeing them from the restrictions of always having to use a headset for a call over Skype, or similar VoIP services.”
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Primarily fuelled by the developments and growth in other areas of conferencing and collaboration, the markets for hands-free audio communications devices, such as tabletop audio-conferencing products, continues to grow steadily in Europe.
The switchover to IP-based voice communications presents tremendous short- to medium-term opportunities, as companies change over their infrastructure, telephones and conference phones to IP.
However, this successful revenue stream for both mainstream and niche manufacturers operating in this segment may start to be threatened by the emergence of the new, lower-priced alternative in the form of the personal audio communications product (PACP). Used directly with a desktop or laptop PC, this type of device allows users to access Internet-based voice and video services in comfort, without resorting to the traditional headset, allowing group involvement and longer duration calls without fatigue.
“While the PACP segment does itself offer vendors new growth opportunities, it also presents potential risks to incumbent participants, both in the form of cannibalisation of their existing, more expensive products, and by introducing into the marketplace new entrant skills in the manufacture and distribution of low-cost, high volume products,” notes Dodd.
While the trade-up to IP presents growth opportunities, the challenge for the well-established market leaders will be to manage the introduction into the market of these low-cost alternatives: profiting from the new revenue stream they create while carefully side-stepping the risk that customers of the more expensive tabletop products will simply trade down.
A one-for-one swap of tabletop product for personal communications device may in time depress overall revenues, even though total sales volumes will increase.
“The personal communications device presents manufacturers with some interesting challenges,” concludes Dodd. “On the one hand, they want to push the product into the new developing markets for VoIP services, while at the same time protecting their valuable revenue streams for the more traditional tabletop product segment.”
European Audio Conferencing Tabletop Products and Personal Audio Communications Peripherals Markets is part of the Conferencing & Collaboration Growth Partnership Service, which also includes research in the following: audio conferencing service providers, video conferencing endpoints and infrastructures, and unified communications and collaboration services and applications. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.
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