Lync Room System: Microsoft Ventures Beyond Desktop Video
Comparing the first four partner releases.
Like other No Jitter bloggers, I recently attended Microsoft's inaugural conference dedicated to Lync, the company's UC and collaboration platform. Eric tells us about Skype integration, one of the most anticipated features in Lync Server 2013. Sheila recounts Lync's contact center options. And Irwin touched on plans to (finally!) bake "enterprise voice" into Lync Online. And Marty provides an overview on Lync's advances in the areas of mobility, video, and CEBP. So with all that out of the way I'll restrict myself to the one new product announcement made at the event: Lync Room System.
Lync Room System (which I'm going to try to avoid calling LRS, because if there's one thing the industry just doesn't need it's another three-letter acronym) is Microsoft's first attempt to deliver a Lync-based video conferencing experience beyond desktops and mobile devices. I mean, it's long been possible to integrate Lync with room-based video conferencing systems. Solutions from Radvision, Polycom, Vidyo, Cisco and others let end users with Lync clients participate in room-based video conferences based on these vendors' technology. But with Lync Room System, Microsoft is making the video conference room itself a fully functional Lync client. This means it's not just pumping in the video stream of remote participants, but delivering all of Lync's other collaboration capabilities, including presence state, document sharing once the meeting is started, Outlook integration for coordinating with participants' calendars, and interactive white boarding. Granted, the lattermost doesn't fit into the "all of Lync's other collaborations capabilities" category, but its white boards are a central Lync Room System feature and are pretty slick. You can get a better sense of what Lync Room System is all about at the Lync Team Blog.
To deliver Lync-based video rooms, Microsoft is taking much the same approach it took with delivering Lync-based desk phones: Deliver a set of hardware specifications to a select set of partners and let them go at it. The partners in question this time around are LifeSize, Polycom, Crestron, and Smart Technologies. Each has been working on their iterations of Lync Rooms System for the past year or so. Each plans to have shipping solutions later this year. And each was providing demos at Lync Conference 2013. I attended each of the demos to see how the four solutions will be distinct from one another. Here's what I learned:
The LifeSize solution is called LifeSize LRS 1000 for Microsoft Lync. The company has already produced a FAQ on it and has given it a dedicated product page. Click on the link and you'll see the components that make up all of the Lync Room System solutions: An HD camera, large touch-screen monitors, speakers, a conference table microphone, a dedicated control console, and a CPU of one sort or another. In the case of LifeSize, the camera is a modified version of the recently introduced Logitech C930e, and the monitors are either one or two 55" Smart Board 8055i displays.
When I asked how LifeSize will differentiate its Lync Room System solution, senior product manager Ryan Stuczynski said the company will focus specifically on connecting smaller-sized rooms of six to eight participants, rather than larger board rooms. This will be reflected in the price, which Stuczynski says will be significantly lower than his competitors' Lync Room System solutions. (I heard some pricing details for another vendor's solution, but I'm not sure if it's list or street...and I don't think I'm supposed to publish it so you all will have to wait for the official pricing announcements to be made in a few months.)
As with all the Lync Room System solutions, no hardware-based MCUs are required since Lync Server 2013 provides the intelligence for setting up the multi-point video sessions. But this is only to interconnect multiple Lync Rooms Systems, as well as Lync desktop and mobile clients. LifeSize LRS 1000 can optionally be deployed with LifeSize UVC Multipoint, a software-based MCU that connects to other video endpoints already deployed within the enterprise. This way Lync Room Systems are not video conferencing islands unto themselves, but rather able to participate in the LifeSize customer's existing video network.
Next page: Crestron, Smart and Polycom