LifeSize Adds 600 Million Users
The integration represents the boldest and most significant move for Skype's foray into the enterprise.
Lifesize announced today that it now offers a bridge between enterprise video communications and Skype. The concept was inevitable and arguably overdue. The questions were only who and when. LifeSize, a division of Logitech, has been working with Skype for two years and this announcement builds on its prior support of Skype audio-conferencing.
LifeSize is making some bold moves. The company delivered the world's first mainstream HD video communications system in 2005. It has strong partnerships with Microsoft and Avaya; both natively integrate with LifeSize products. The company has a well rounded video portfolio extending from desktop to conference rooms, along with infrastructure solutions for management and security.
The announcement today involves the LifeSize Passport which is targeted at SOHO users. The Passport is a relatively small and inexpensive unit introduced in 2009 for less than $2,500. The Passport works with other LifeSize endpoints as well as those from many competitors including Polycom and Cisco. It supports video over H.323, SIP, and now Skype, which makes the Passport the most promiscuous video device on the planet.
LifeSize accomplished interoperability with Skype by integrating a Skype client into the product. The user must first enter their Skype credentials to access Skype and their Contacts (which can be populated into the LifeSize directory). The Passport supports voice or video calls, but video calls are not supported to Skype Mobile devices. That's likely just a matter of time.
Skype's core service remains free, but it does charge for numerous enhanced services such as PSTN access and multipoint video. The company intends to do an IPO later this year with an rumored valuation around a billion dollars. Skype clearly desires to attract more (endorsed) Enterprise usage, but cheap dial-tone isn't a sufficient draw. Skype has limited enterprise appeal largely due to the lack of SLAs and the fact that Skype's vast video network is (was) incompatible with enterprise systems.
This news from LifeSize represents the boldest and most significant move for Skype's foray into the enterprise. So far this year, Skype announced group video calling (not supported on the Passport), multiple mobile plays including the acquisition of Qik and its intended support of Verizon's 4G/LTE network. And a partnership with Citrix that combines Skype's rich audio and visual with GoToMeeting’s collaboration service. Last year, Skype launched SkypeConnect to enable enterprises to access Skype's global network via SIP trunks.
But interest in video calling is high, and now Skype and LifeSize have bridged the enterprise to the Skype video network. This first version is a bit limited, but it is a profound start. For example, a LifeSize video conference cannot add-in a Skype user (yet). LifeSize is likely working to integrate Skype directly into its software rather than rely upon a separate client and probably has designs to add Skype support to its other platforms.
The news effectively extends Skype's living room strategy to LifeSize. Multiple vendors such as Panasonic, Vizio, Samsung, Toshiba and Sony make Skype-enabled televisions and/or Blu-ray players. IBM, Polycom, and Cisco have adopted similar strategies to extend their enterprise solutions to at-home workers. Now, LifeSize indirectly has a living room TV too.
It had appeared none of the enterprise video players were ready to acknowledge Skype (yet), and that's why this announcement is so significant. If the feature proves to be compelling, it is very likely other vendors will follow suit. Supposedly Skype and Avaya are working to more tightly integrate rich presence and other services. The real opportunity lies ahead for LifeSize; the company now plays well with Avaya, Microsoft, and Skype, but not yet simultaneously.