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Businesses need to explore Firefox, Chrome's WebRTC to bolster services and cut costs

Experts at Enterprise Connect show say the browser-based voice, video, data technology will expand features of business apps

By , Network World
March 20, 2013 04:29 PM ET

Network World - ORLANDO, Fla. -- Businesses need to study up now on WebRTC - the browser-based voice and video support included in the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome but that seems destined for all browsers - if they want to jump on opportunities to enhance services and cut costs, according to experts at the Enterprise Connect conference.

The application for which WebRTC offers the most potential is contact centers, where customers seeking help on Web sites can connect with live help via voice and video but also share screens.

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For example, in a private demo room at the conference Avaya showed the technology working in conjunction with its Contact Center platform, something that is not a product yet but that may become part of a future offering. With no other client than a WebRTC-enabled Chrome browser a client PC clicked on a Web page button to initiate a video connection with an agent machine through the Contact Center server.

The broader potential is that through WebRTC's API developers can readily incorporate video-chat in applications without worrying about compatibility of codecs because the codecs are built into the browsers. WebRTC has the intelligence to determine the type of traffic it is passing and select the codec that will optimize it given the network performance.

"This will move voice and video from being applications; [they become] more of a feature," says Jan Liden, a senior product manager at Google who is working on the WebRTC standard.

Over the next year businesses will see applications enabled with WebRTC, and they should explore how the technology might be useful to them. "Think out-of-the-box about real-time data and video to improve business processes," says Cullen Jennings, a Cisco Distinguished Engineer also working on the standard. "Think about how it works over existing networks. Slap vendors around to get them to build what you need."

Expect applications written by third-party developers that incorporate WebRTC to proliferate over the next three to six months, says Valentine Matula, senior director of Avaya's multimedia technologies research. Mainstream application developers will follow quickly, he says.

IT executives should sit down with their own application developers over the next year to see what's possible, says Irwin Lazar, an analyst with Nemertes Research.

With communications built into browsers and apps businesses have the chance to cut voice call, audio conferencing and videoconferencing costs by reducing service fees such as 800 calls to service centers.

So far Apple and Microsoft haven't incorporated WebRTC in Internet Explorer or Safari. Microsoft's Derek Burney, a corporate vice president presenting a keynote at Enterprise Connect, says doing so is part of the company's game plan when a standard has been finalized.

Microsoft's Skype also provides voice, video and data over the Internet, but requires a separate client that is proprietary, resulting in an island of connectivity among Skype users. WebRTC has the potential to federate this type of communication or to enable each user to connect to multiple islands that are useful to them.

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