Q2 2020: Zoom booms and bombs as we get to grips with the pandemic

Q2 2020: Zoom booms and bombs as we get to grips with the pandemic
In our second wrap up of 2020 we see the Covid crisis start to dig in and hopes for speedy recovery dashed. But there were reasons to be cheerful… and some very weird technology developments.

April Fool’s day fell flat in 2020; I can’t see that anyone would have been in the mood to laugh and our stories from April 1 were nothing to joke about. Looking back at our coverage, the second quarter was when the reality that the pandemic was not going away quickly started to bite. 

By May we’d published an article on ‘the new normal’ – a phrase so overused now we avoid it like the plague… or indeed, the coronavirus.  

However, we can’t forget that the pandemic saw big wins for some companies. Sure, we’d all heard of Zoom but in terms of its impact on AV I’d say their February showing at ISE was a fair gauge of how they were considered. Software company, small stand not much more than shell scheme, moderately busy, out in the temporary hall. But pretty much from then on Zoom… boomed. Our coverage acts as a reminder that it wasn’t however all plain sailing for the VC disruptor. 

Zoom boom 
Microsoft, and even Facebook and Google, got in on the explosion of videoconferencing but it was Zoom that dominated the news as the relative outsider enjoying (or at times enduring) a stratospheric rise in popularity in a short space of time. 

From Zoom booming, to Zoom bombing; our first reports of meetings getting disrupted by porn, hate and other unwanted footage and messages surfaced on April 1. The day after, Zoom issued an apology. By April 8 we’d put out a longer article drawing together the multitude of security concerns starting to mount. By the end of April, hackers were flogging Zoom security flaws online

Apologies aside, Zoom’s response started in earnest with a 90-day plan to tackle security including a security-focused update, the acquisition of key directory Keybase, a geo blocking feature and a plan to deliver end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for paying users. 

You’d think the world wasn’t grateful. By June 19,000 Zoom users called on the software company to deliver end-to-end encryption for all. Under pressure, Zoom relented. However, it wouldn’t be until October that E2EE would finally be rolled out. 

We covered many of these trends in the article ‘One giant leap’ if you’re interested in a longer read.

In the second quarter of 2020 I’m still not sure that we’d quite all realised events (with the exception of GITEX and InfoComm China) would be off for the rest of the year, and into 2021 for that matter. 

Perhaps Microsoft got a heads up from old boss Bill Gates (who, depending on who you talk to, predicted or created the coronavirus), because they went in early. All in-person events moved online until June 2021. Presumably that’s when Gates knew that vaccines - an area he understands from altruistically funding vaccine programmes/financially gaining from vaccine developments/wanting to inject us so he could control us (delete as applicable according to your preferred conspiracy theory) – would start to take effect. 

Meanwhile Light + Build, as a biannual show, was postponed to 2022. But ISE was still going to happen in February in Barcelona! 

Cancellations aside, life must go on and we got down to the business of trying to discover some bright spots and ingenuity to come out of the crisis. Light shows were deployed to help healthcare workers, museums found ways to engage with audiences through lockdown, Denmark came out early with a solution to show football with drive in displays (something we were to see more over the year), a DOOH project aimed to unite the world, parliaments turned to technology to continue functioning and parts of the live events industry pivoted to quickly support the rapid rise of virtual gatherings, presentations, exhibitions and more. 

Talking of virtual events, it was also during this time that Inavate hosted its very first multilingual virtual panel discussion. Paul Milligan gathered a panel of experts involved in an ambitious and successful corporate HQ to dissect the project. We beamed this out to Inavate subscribers with live translation into French, German and Spanish. You can still watch it now

In other news
In the section headed ‘technologies that may never see the light of day’, this quarter saw fog with the power to transform lasers into useful light sources. Anyone up for ordering some fog? We also got sprayable and stretchable displays. Oh, and some made of human hair… as if 2020 wasn’t grim enough already without that. 

Internet speed records were smashed but – spoiler alert – they get broken again this year. 

On the mergers and acquisitions side the enormous integrator tie-up of AVI-SPL and Whitlock concluded and Kinly acquired AVMI. We also looked in depth at the trends behind the increase in M&A activity in AV

A final note… it’s worth also flagging from this quarter an announcement from HTC that was widely unreported by the AV press. A number of developments from the VR company paved the way for VR to become an important business tool. It’s something that we continued to keep an eye on in 2020 - keep tuned for this series of wraps ups if you missed any of that and want to know more. 

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