Cost-free solutions on a billion-dollar market
Big tech can actually be avoided. The small Swiss company Infomaniak is taking on digital office tech giants like Zoom and Microsoft. Without any charges or advertising, it is offering videoconferencing that can also be used by inexperienced users.
Switzerland is most likely to be associated with chocolate, watches, Roger Federer, bank secrecy and neutrality. Go on, admit it: we listed them in the right order, didn’t we? Still, it is precisely this neutrality and independence that are now benefiting Swiss cloud supplier Infomaniak and its independent videoconferencing solution, kMeet. The alternative to Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype has been launched on a bitterly contested market.
300 million users
The range of videoconferencing tools on offer has become quite varied. And it has grown difficult to recognize and differentiate between their potential benefits and drawbacks. Nevertheless, over the past 18 months a mainstream favourite has emerged: Zoom has become the most popular platform for virtual meetings in 44 countries, including the US and Canada, Australia, the UK, Scandinavia and German-speaking countries. In April 2020, which was the peak of the first lockdown wave, Zoom announced that it had an impressive total of 300 million videoconferencing users every day. Before Covid-19 arrived, it only had ten million users – per month.
But does it really always have to be Zoom? Admittedly, if you are invited to join a videoconference, you don’t have a choice. But if you are organizing an online meeting from your own office, it’s worth comparing the individual systems. You’ll notice that kMeet offers some useful tools.
Infomaniak headquartered in Europe
And it has some basic prerequisites. One of these involves current security concerns: Infomaniak is the only notable supplier with servers in Europe instead of the US (like Google and Zoom) or spread across the world (like Skype and Microsoft Teams). Actually, to be absolutely precise, Infomaniak’s servers are at home in politically neutral Switzerland.
In addition, the Swiss platform is basically free of charge despite its lack of advertising. There are no paid extras, either. And unlike its competitors, there is no limit to the number of users. Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and Cisco’s Webex are restricted to 100 people per discussion, and only 50 are allowed on Skype. What’s more, there is no limit to the time allowed for kMeet videoconferences – although that could also be seen as a disadvantage …
Interesting features for companies
Features that make kMeet attractive in a business setting include the possibility of branding each meeting and individually adapting the platform to add your own logo. It also allows the moderator to switch off the cameras of all participants. Incidentally, the video broadcast itself is in high definition.
Where required, other participants can also be appointed as moderator during meetings. Moderator rights include recording the meeting (although this has the minor disadvantage that recording is only possible in the in-house – and fee-based – kDrive cloud). Another helpful tool is the timer that displays the speaking duration of each participant.
200 updates for intuitive operation
kMeet was launched in April 2020 and has undergone continual development ever since. The latest of more than 200 updates includes optional annotating on a shared screen and allowing remote access from a different computer.
Even the least experienced users can easily plan meetings.
Overall, the Swiss company pursues a design that is as user-friendly as possible so that – according to the company – everyone, even the least experienced users, can easily plan or join meetings. Inituitive features include a calendar on the homepage that shows all your scheduled meetings.
From customer support right to the top
kMeet is due to remain cost- and registration-free in the future as well. “Our business model doesn’t include advertising and we don’t share our users’ data with third parties. Our free services such as SwissTransfer.com and ik.me are financed by our paid products and contribute to promoting the brand,” explains Infomaniak CEO Mark Oehler. The fee-based products by Infomaniak include a streaming service that is already used by more than 160 radio stations.
Mark Oehler was promoted within the company from COO to CEO just recently, at the beginning of 2021. His predecessor – and Infomaniak co-founder Boris Siegenthaler – was strategic director and therefore primarily focused on the long-term orientation of the hosting supplier. Founded in 1994, the company has offices in Geneva and Winterthur.
kMeet takes on Google and its compatriots
In his first press statement, the new CEO – who began his career at the company 17 years ago as a customer support officer – took aim at Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, known collectively by the acronym GAFA or also GAFAM: “My goal is for Infomaniak to become a real ethical alternative to GAFA. My main priority is to ensure that our products continue to evolve regularly and that employees feel good at work.”
By international comparison, Infomaniak – which defines itself as a developer of innovative and intuitive web solutions – is still just a tiny little praline: in 2020 the company celebrated a record turnover of 26 million Swiss francs (24.2 million euros), and therefore an increase of 24 percent year-on-year. kMeet is currently used for around half a million meetings per month.
Videoconferencing as a billion-dollar market
This makes challenging the international tech giants all the more worthwhile. After all, videoconferencing suppliers are predicted to have a rosy future ahead of them: increasing globalization and the rising demand for the internet as a whole are set to more than double the industry value from around 4.49 billion euros in 2019 to 9.21 billion euros in 2027.
Come to think of it, that kind of money would buy you a huge amount of Swiss chocolate – which you could snack on secretly during those never-ending videoconferences …