Free VMS is not a new phenomenon; a number of network camera vendors supply VMS for free, bundled with their cameras. So is Milestone Systems' free VMS product announcement significant to the VMS market?
Unlike other free VMS products, two of the key differentiators that the free Milestone product offers are openness and functionality. Much of the software bundled for free with network cameras is proprietary, meaning that it only works with one particular vendor's hardware. While the adoption of open standards, such as the ONVIF and PSIA, will increase the openness of vendors supplying free VMS products; currently the percentage of available ONVIF-compliant hardware is relatively low and these vendors still lack support for non-ONVIF-compliant hardware. Secondly, much of the free software currently available has poor or limited functionality. While Milestone's does not contain the full feature set of its more advanced siblings, its feature set is more expansive that other free VMS offerings and is potentially better suited to the residential and small-business market.
Offering free or “lite” software has been an incredibly successful business model in other software application markets. Customers get a taste for the product and upgrade the software as their requirements and/or installation size increases. Furthermore, the availability of free open-platform VMS may entice the existing installed base of low camera count deployments to part with their existing, and typically proprietary, system and embrace an open-platform VMS.
The network video surveillance market has, to date, not been successful in the low-end market. When compared to an analog DVR system, the high price of VMS licenses, coupled with the higher price of network cameras, has served as a deterrent in this highly price-sensitive market segment. Currently, the low-end market is serviced by inexpensive and low-cost analog CCTV products. “The rapidly declining cost of network cameras, free VMS and open standards will all play key factors in network video surveillance equipment beginning to penetrate the low end market”, said Gary Wong, Video Surveillance Analyst. “However, even free open-platform VMS may not provide the key to penetrating this market segment as customers may continue to favor the familiarity of existing analog systems,” Wong said.