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Cloud-Based Video Conferencing Makeover: Lifesize

There's been a lot of activity around cloud-based video conferencing services all of a sudden. Lifesize and Cisco are revamping their existing offerings, and Dimension Data is expanding its services via M&A ... or rather the A bit of M&A. I've been trying to noodle out how to discuss them in a concise, yet comprehensive way, because each is a pretty interesting move. So let's keep things simple: Three short blogs on each of the announcements, with three sections looking at what each offered previously in way of a hosted video conferencing service, what they'll offer next, and what the change means.

First up, Lifesize. The next two posts, going up shortly, will cover Cisco then Dimension Data.

What Lifesize offered before:
Lifesize Connections, a hosted video conferencing service that was introduced in 2011. It was based in part on technology that came with Logitech's acquisition of SightSpeed. (Lifesize is also a Logitech acquisition. Logitech Vid, the video calling service for consumers that was discontinued last year, was also based on SightSpeed.)

Connections could be ordered in about 40 countries, including the U.S. and most of Europe, plus Australia, Japan, and South Korea. There was a specialized endpoint, Passport Connect, optimized for use with Connections by virtue of a simplified UI and directory-based dialing. The Connections service is still up and running for existing customers, but it will no longer receive active R&D attention nor will it be actively sold.

What Lifesize will offer next:
Lifesize Cloud, a hosted video conferencing service based on UVC ClearSea and software-based MCUs managed by Lifesize and residing in top-tier data centers. Like Connections, Lifesize Cloud can be ordered through the company's worldwide partner network as a subscription based on the number of users, and is accessible internationally (but for now orderable in only the U.S. and the EU nations, plus Norway and Switzerland).

Unlike Connections, Lifesize Cloud supports iOS and Android mobile clients, allows interoperability with third-party room-based video endpoints (Connections supported Lifesize endpoints only), supports 720p60 video (Connections supported 720p30), supports both direct-dial and meet-me conferences (Connections didn't support meet-me), lets audio-only participants dial in via telephone (Connections didn't), connects up to 25 endpoints (Connections connected nine), and costs $25 per user per month based on a 25-user package (Connections was $30 per desktop client per month and $100-$149 per room-based system per month).

What it means:
First, Lifesize Cloud supports more types of room-based endpoints compared with Lifesize Connections. It supports a greater number of endpoints per call, and its price has been slashed compared with the previous offering. I can't grumble about that, and, trust me, I grumble quite a bit.

Second, it's great that Lifesize is continuing to give cloud-based video a go. Unlike Blue Jeans, StarLeaf, VidTel, and 8x8, hosted services aren't its core business. It will be tricky for a systems developer to break into the market for hosted communications services, but I don't see why it should be impossible.

Third, Lifesize hasn't made a huge business out of selling partners the underlying infrastructure they need to build and bring to market their hosted communications services. As with Connections, resellers will be able to add Lifesize Cloud to the set of solutions that they deliver to their customers. This said, Lifesize does have some telco partners, such as BT Conferencing and Telstra, which resell Lifesize systems to their customers. These telcos also offer hosted video conferencing services, and Lifesize doing the same could complicate things.

Finally, it's a pity that a new service needed to be launched rather than the previous one being tweaked. This took time and resources for Lifesize to pull together and will very likely be a disruption to customers and partners as they gradually transition from one service to the other.