Polycom Lands AT&T as a Partner
We should see a much more service provider-friendly Polycom over the next 12-24 months--a big change that's needed if they're to remain a leader in video.
Historically, Polycom and service providers have gone together about as well as Peyton Manning and big games. Once in a while there was something to talk about, but most of the time, they were mutually exclusive.
However, one of the main initiatives for Polycom during the Andy Miller era has been to make service providers a significant channel for the company. There have been a few baby steps indicating that Polycom's strategy was working, but on Monday Polycom landed the big one--AT&T--as a strategic partner for personal, mobile and virtual video meetings.
Under the terms of the agreement, AT&T will incorporate the Polycom RealPresence platform into the AT&T Telepresence Solution set as part of the AT&T Business Exchange. This partnership will enable AT&T to offer its customers broader choice through the use of on-demand, virtual meeting rooms. Additionally, this will extend the reach of video collaboration to a broader set of business customers, partners and suppliers on the AT&T Business Exchange. B2B video will drive the next wave of growth and AT&T certainly has the customer base, network reach and portfolio to capitalize on this trend.
Also, as part of this agreement, AT&T will offer Polycom-based fully-managed service bundles. Customers of AT&T Telepresence will have access to a wide range of Polycom RealPresence solutions in 40 countries that include both immersive and multipurpose rooms as well as personal solutions. The use of a managed service lets customers have all the benefits of video for a monthly fee without having to lay out big chunks of cash up front. Additionally, the managed service requires very little in the way of internal IT resources, meaning video can scale up in companies at whatever pace the customer wants.
Also as part of this partnership, Polycom will use the AT&T network to be its preferred wide area network provider for the company's internal network. The Polycom WAN will be built on AT&T's MPLS and VPN service and will carry all of Polycom's voice, video and data traffic, including WAN access to the AT&T Business Exchange as well as Polycom EBCs (executive briefing centers) and Customer Experience Centers. This should help demonstrate the quality of "Polycom on AT&T".
This partnership should be a win-win for both companies. AT&T has had a long history in video but its services have primarily been built on Cisco's solution. AT&T has taken advantage of this as Cisco has huge share in video, particularly Telepresence, but it's not the only solution. Having both Cisco- and Polycom-based services gives AT&T a more well rounded portfolio.
Also, I'm sure one of the reasons AT&T looked Polycom's way was because of the momentum and customer demand behind Microsoft Lync. It seems over the past year or so, Lync demand has skyrocketed. In fact, a large percentage of the users I talked to at last year's Enterprise Connect had some interest in Lync, and I've had more inquiry on that topic over the past 12 months than probably the last five years combined.
Understanding this, it makes total sense that AT&T would want to catch this wave, and no vendor interoperates with Lync as well as Polycom. In fact, Polycom remains the only video vendor that natively integrates into Lync. No gateways, no custom code, the stuff just works and works well. Additionally, AT&T was one of the founding members of the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), which was launched to enable multi-network, multi-vendor solutions, so this partnership expands on the relationship that is already in place.
For Polycom, the partnership is a great proof point for its cloud/service provider RealPresence solutions. AT&T has the largest network and the largest customer base in the world, so if the Polycom solutions can perform well in that environment, it should open the door for other service providers to follow suit.
The combination of Lync, cloud, and growth in video usage presents a great opportunity for Polycom to have some sustainable, long-term growth. The biggest question that remains is how aggressive Polycom gets with its service provider channel, as it needs to ensure that the flow of business through its traditional channel remains consistent. Clearly, the company needs to have a dual-pronged strategy as more and more services, including video, move to the cloud; but historically, Polycom has been very conservative when dealing with service providers.
The sense I get from talking with the folks at Polycom is that they recognize the opportunity today with service providers and we should see a much more service provider-friendly Polycom over the next 12-24 months than we saw in the previous 12-24 months. It's a big change for the company, but one that's needed if they're to remain a leader in video.