Rob Arnold's Blog


Did Polycom Change the World?

10 Oct 2012 | by Rob Arnold
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On October 8th a select group of industry and financial analysts spent the morning at NASDAQ in New York City’s Times Square, where Polycom CEO Andy Miller rang the bell to open NASDAQ trading. The ring of the bell launched Polycom Strategy Day.

Leading up to the event Polycom generated a lot of buzz in the UC&C industry by teasing the market with messages that it would make history and its planned announcements would change the world.

The week before Polycom’s event, my colleagues and I fielded a multitude of discussion requests from Polycom tech and channel partners, and Polycom competitors wanting to gain insight as well as provide us with their perspectives.

We’ve had multiple requests to provide some feedback ASAP after Monday’s event. A lot of details are still to come from Polycom as the new offerings are rolled out through 1H 2013, and it will also take time to digest the breadth of the innovations. As a result, I’m decided to provide a quick, high level summary of my impressions from a competitive perspective.

The announcements were summarily rolled into the company’s “Wave 7” initiative. Aptly code-named, the enhancements and new developments were far sweeping, like a wave sweeping across the company’s portfolio. Dozens of new or enhanced products were unveiled.

Broadly, the initiatives primarily focus on enhancing the user experience through a variety of next generation endpoints, expanding RealPresence deployment flexibility to include: virtualization and cloud; facilitating, increasing penetration into the mid-market; and enabling secure, seamless inter-company and B2C rich-media collaboration capabilities.

Select Highlights:

  • SVC – Polycom announced its support for open standards-based scalable video coding on its RMX and 800s platforms and newest endpoints. The company has submitted its SVC implementation to the UCIF so that other members can leverage it for development and interoperability. The SVC support adds to existing AVC support, giving the Products more flexibility in mixed/hybrid environments.
  • B2B/B2C – CloudAXIS Suite, which leverages Polycom’s RealPresence architecture, enables users of different and disparate videoconferencing services and systems (Skype, Lync, Sametime, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoogleTalk, etc.) to securely and reliably federate in order to share presence information with each other and to communicate via voice and video from a zero footprint browser-based client.
  • Virtualization – In Collaboration Server 800s Virtual Edition, Polycom has enabled its RMX software to run on industry standard x86 server hardware. The "soft MCU" 800s platform is supported by the same RealPresence and other Polycom collaboration products (endpoints, management, streaming, recording, etc.) as the hardware-based RMX and can interoperate with the hadrware-based RMX for clustering, load balancing, and more.
  • Cloud – CloudAXIS Suite and the 800s platform mark a new direction for Polycom in regards to cloud. The company is positioning these products for private enterprise clouds and as the infrastructure with which service provider partners can offer their own cloud-based videoconferencing services.

Focusing on solutions involving virtualization, cloud, B2B videoconferencing federation, SVC and mobility, Polycom hit on all of the hot buttons in today’s highly competitive enterprise videoconferencing market.

Polycom’s initiatives signal that the company has taken the lead to move more wholeheartedly toward a software and services model. It is widely recognized that this is where the overall UC&C market has long been headed, so it is a competitive necessity for Polycom. Recently start ups and smaller competitors have maneuvered faster than Polycom in cloud-based videoconferencing enablement, B2B, SVC and virtualization.

Polycom’s actions were imperative to grow its market share and to protect its valuable base of 415,000 installed customers worldwide. While the company did not necessarily surpass all competitors in all areas, it has vastly improved its forward direction and positioning. From a development standpoint, Polycom’s efforts validate initiatives undertaken by Blue Jeans, Vidtel, LifeSize, Radvision and others. However, compared to Polycom none of these rivals have taken on as many advanced areas simultaneously. In fact, the breadth of Polycom’s advanced initiatives currently surpasses the individual efforts of all its rivals, including Cisco.

The new software and services focus will expand the addressable market for Polycom, particularly in the mid-market sector directly eyed by the company as a growth opportunity. Additionally Polycom’s position of enabling partners to provide cloud-based videoconferencing services in fairly unique in the current market wherein a number of startups and vendors have launched services themselves.

So, in light of what we know today...

Did Polycom change the world? Probably not, but without a doubt, the company has shifted the competitive landscape.

Did Polycom make history? Yes, the advancements on display are unprecedented at Polycom.

For more Frost & Sullivan analysis of Polycom’s announcements, please see the associated blog by UC&C Industry Research Director Roopam Jain.

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