Zoom Unveils New Videoconferencing Hardware as Competition Intensifies

The fast-growing software firm has taken the wraps off a system specifically built for remote workers.
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At a time when Zoom  (ZM) - Get Report is seeing both incredible growth and intensifying competition, the videoconferencing software company is starting to step up its hardware efforts.

On Wednesday morning, Zoom unveiled -- in tandem with long-time hardware partner DTEN -- Zoom for Home, a $599 videoconferencing system that features a 27-inch touchscreen and was built with remote workers in mind. The system, which ships in the U.S. in August, packs eight microphones and three wide-angle cameras, syncs with a user’s calendar and Zoom settings and is promised to quickly work out of the box for users who already have Zoom accounts.

Zoom notes the system can integrate with third-party videoconferencing appliances. and supports content-sharing and interactive whiteboarding. And though its relatively low 1080p resolution would be a handicap, Zoom for Home can also be used as a second monitor for a PC.

Though likely overkill for many of the remote workers who are currently taking part in Zoom calls using a desktop or notebook webcam, Zoom thinks the system could appeal to power users -- for example, execs or salespeople who often do video meetings -- looking for a “professional communications experience.” It also thinks the system could be adopted by IT admins and teachers/professors who are working remotely.

Zoom for Home’s unveiling is happening just a little over a week after Zoom launched Hardware as a Service, an offering that lets businesses pay for third-party hardware used to support the Zoom Rooms and Zoom Phone platforms on a subscription basis. Hardware from several partners, including DTEN, Neat and Poly, can be purchased.

With COVID-19 driving massive usage growth, Zoom reported in June that its revenue rose 169% annually during its April quarter, a major acceleration from the 78% growth seen during its January quarter. The company also disclosed that meeting minutes among Global 2000 customers tripled sequentially, and it nearly doubled its fiscal 2021 (ends in Jan. 2021) revenue guidance to a range of $1.775 billion to $1.8 billion.

At the same time, the massive jump seen in videoconferencing activity since March has led tech giants to invest more aggressively in their own videoconferencing offerings.

Last week, Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Report announced a slew of new video-related features for its Teams collaboration platform, which is bundled with Office 365 subscriptions and has also seen tremendous growth in recent months. Among other things, the company added a Together Mode that places images of all meeting participants in front of a common backdrop, and a Dynamic View feature that gives users more control over what content and users they’re seeing.

Microsoft also said that Teams will soon support up to 1,000 meeting participants -- Zoom’s Enterprise Plus plan currently supports this many -- and up to 20,000 presentation participants. Also on the way: Cortana integration for the Teams mobile app, translations for live captions and transcripts and integration with PowerPoint’s Live Presentations feature.

Separately, though it’s worth noting that rival platforms already have some of these features, Alphabet  (GOOG) - Get Report is prepping new features for its Google Meet videoconferencing software, which has gained a healthy following in the education vertical and (per Google) was adding about three million users per day as of late April. Among the new features: The ability to see up to 49 meeting participants at once, new moderator controls and the ability to track meeting attendance and split a meeting into smaller “breakout rooms.”

As of the time of this article, Zoom’s stock is down about 3% in Wednesday trading, joining a broader selloff in many tech stocks that have rallied sharply since March.

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