This time last week I was in beautiful Monterey, California at the third annual VCI-Group conference. Today, I am hunkered down in my house anxiously awaiting Hurricane Sandy, aka Frankenstorm, aka The Ring of Evil. As I look outside at the wind and rain that are only going to get much worse I can’t help but think about sunny California.

Polycom, Cisco and Vidyo gave keynote speeches each morning of the conference. While they all gave their own take on where the industry was going there was one key theme – convenience. Convenience is what drives adoption and it’s what is driving the video conferencing and unified communication market.

Stuart Monks, VP Group Solutions, Technology and Architecture, at Polycom discussed three drivers of the video communications industry. These drivers are hybrid cloud technology, web-centric clients, and the evolution of tablet and smartphone capabilities and connectivity. The first two drivers make it easier for organizations to implement video and unified communications solutions. Enhancements to tablets and smartphones, combined with web-centric clients, make it easier for individuals to video conference and collaborate with one another.

Jacob Nordan, Senior Director Collaboration Infrastructure, at Cisco highlighted the transition to the cloud, the new virtualized workspace, and most importantly less complex solutions. The tools and opportunities needed to collaborate now exist virtually, whether it’s through video conferencing, instant messaging, or a full-featured collaborative hub powered by WebEx Social.

Once again, this provides easier access for individuals to collaborate. Another important note Nordan made was the drive toward simplicity and removing the complexity of visual collaboration solutions. Simple solutions enhance the user experience by enabling individuals to engage and collaborate effortlessly. He stated, “The user experience drives adoption and increased adoption equals better and faster ROI.”

Finally, Ofer Shapiro, President and CEO of Vidyo, also highlighted the trends from hardware to software based clients. He cited the price-performance curve of telepresence and web-based solutions. Essentially, room-based telepresence systems provide high audio and visual quality; however, this comes at high price. Advancements in software clients and web-based solutions can now also provide a high quality audio and visual experience for a fraction of the cost. While these solutions might not provide the exact same experience, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. The investment required for room-based system begins to exceed the enhanced audio and visual quality these systems provide.

A caveat to this logic is situations where high-intensity, active collaboration is necessary. Web-based solutions work phenomenally well for planning, status updates or training sessions. However, collaborative sessions that require immediate decision making under stressful situations (for example the decision to evacuate Battery Park City and other low-lying areas of New York City in anticipation of a hurricane) require a life-like collaborative experience.

To everyone in Sandy’s path – stay safe out there and good luck!