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Looking at Lifesize

When video conferencing company Lifesize announced a WebRTC-powered video app last month, I took that as a trigger to check in for a status report. How had the company been faring over the last year since flipping its orientation from the premises to a services model -- a move that had been labeled a "cloud changer"?

Based on some statistics Michael Helmbrecht, the company's chief product officer, shared with me, the pivot seems to be working out well. At the end of September, just shy of a year and a half since launching into the cloud, here's a look at Lifesize Cloud by the numbers:

And of those paying customers? Sixty percent of them are brand new to Lifesize, which means the company is acquiring more customers for its cloud video service than it is converting from its installed base, Helmbrecht said. Anecdotally what Lifesize is hearing from companies it that they're using the cloud video service to dial down their audio and Web video conferencing contracts.

Also of note, Helmbrecht added, is that about two-thirds of Lifesize Cloud calls originate via the service's presence-enabled directory. They either enter the directory and initiate calls from there, or escalate from texting to video calling from within the Lifesize Cloud client. The high rate of directory-enabled video calling speaks to the user need for immediacy -- and the ability to use Lifesize Cloud client as a day-to-day productivity tool, Helmbrecht said.

"I need to talk to Jenna. I text her, then I call her, we add in other people... and the video call grows."

And the users, no matter whether they're participating from their PCs, Macs, iOS smartphones or tablets, Android devices, video conference systems in a conference rooms -- and now their WebRTC-powered browsers -- all have the same experience within the video call, Helmbrecht added. With the recently announced Lifesize Cloud Web App, currently available for Google Chrome, users get full functionality from within their browsers, no software downloads required.


Lifesize Cloud Web App

"We see a lot of customers using more and more Web apps, ... moving tab to tab and being fully productive," Helmbrect said. "So that's where we're going, too, fitting collaboration and communications into workflows that are more Web-centric."

Brian Bufalo, internal support manager at IT solutions firm TekLinks, a Lifesize reseller and customer, said he sees real promise in the WebRTC cloud app. A handful of TekLinks engineers are using the Chrome version, "but if it could happen on other browsers too, oh gosh, that would be interesting," Bufalo told me, noting that the nature of the company's work means just about every type of browser is in use.

TekLinks, which is among the Lifesize installed base that converted from premises to the cloud, already relies on video calling as a regular part of daily business. In the 30-day period preceding my call with TekLinks, the 123 active users on Lifesize chewed up 20,247 minutes in 829 video calls, Bufalo reported.

The ease of use and instant communications that comes via the Lifesize cloud service has provided particular value as TekLinks works with the folks at Claris Networks, which it acquired in May, said David Powell, vice president of managed and cloud services marketing, at TekLinks. Powell and his team -- four in Birmingham, Ala., and two remote workers from Claris in Knoxville, Tenn. -- fire up the cloud video service for a Monday morning meeting each week, he noted. "We can see one another and build chemistry that way as a team, and the ability to do this on our laptops from wherever makes it tremendously more efficient and effective than if we were bound by a physical conference room."

To emphasize just how important the video calls have been in smoothing the way for the company newcomers, Powell even shared this quote from one of the Claris guys: "Lifesize is the best thing about this entire acquisition."

Joking aside, "there was a concern that we were going to be this nameless, faceless company down in Birmingham, and this has given us the ability to connect with people, see their faces on screen, ask them how their weekends were... you know, have normal conversations," Powell said. "So a lot of stuff that my team enjoys about having me physically here I can extend to the team from an interaction standpoint in video as opposed to all our interactions being via email or conference call."

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