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Polycom Gets a Facelift and a Strategy Change

Today Polycom unveiled a new logo, new strategy and new attitude for how it goes to market. I think the change is long overdue and comes at an opportune time in the market. If you've followed my blogs you'll know that I've been critical of Polycom over the past five years or so and I think the criticism has been well justified.

Polycom has had excellent technology over the years but has seemed content to let Cisco do the evangelizing of video and UC and then follow in its wake and be the alternative to Cisco. This actually wasn't a bad strategy for a while as the market was a virtual duopoly. Did it do anything to help Polycom? Not really, but it didn’t really hurt the company either. Those that were "in the biz" knew who Polycom was, but it didn't extend past that.

Enter the era of virtualization, mobility, cloud, consumerization and IP, and it's easy to see that the market dynamics have changed significantly. Polycom isn’t just fighting Cisco now, but instead is fighting technology evolution--and with this evolution comes the need to change, and change they did. I'll do a deeper dive here on what Polycom announced today:

* The new logo. Gone are the interlocking triangles that were designed to look like a conference room phone (at least I think that was the intention). This logo has been around 20 years or so and was looking a little dated. The new logo is a set of interlocking circles. One of the things I like about this logo is that it's simple yet doesn't look like anything in particular (like a phone). I interpreted it to be the integration of UC with business process and applications--you could interpret it differently. I'm no branding or logo expert but it's got to be better than something that looks like a phone.

* The new strategy. Over the past few quarters, Polycom has talked extensively about making the shift away from being a hardware vendor to becoming a software vendor. Given the rapid adoption of low-cost, high-quality video endpoints, this strategy is sound. If Polycom is going to thrive in this new world of IT, then multi-vendor, interoperable, ubiquitous video must happen. However, video ubiquity isn't just having a video endpoint everywhere. It's really more the thesis that video becomes embedded into applications and business processes. This is what makes continuing to push the software strategy the company outlined a few months ago a critical component of the transformation of Polycom. It's good to see Polycom pushing for industry transformation rather than waiting for someone else to do it

* The new attitude. As I stated before, "legacy" Polycom was not a very aggressive firm when it came to vision or marketing. Cisco evangelized and Polycom capitalized by being the "enemy of my enemy", and partnered with the likes of HP, Dell and Microsoft. Polycom seems like they want better control of this and are bringing in people with the desire to change things, such as CMO Kate Hutchison.

Furthermore, as an analyst, I always felt that analyst relations at Polycom was there to distribute information but never really to interact or listen to analysts. Since new VP of AR Niki Hall, has taken over, I've had more "quality" discussions with Polycom in the past month or so than I did in maybe the last three or four years.

If video is indeed going to become a mainstream communications tool then it can’t exist in the islands that it has in the past. Shifting to a software company will enable Polycom to take more of a "platform" approach where you start to see its "RealPresence" functionality built into more applications. This makes Polycom the center of an ecosystem instead of a product company, which opens up new go-to-market opportunities for the company.

This change in logo, strategy and attitude isn't without its challenges though. Executing on this strategy requires a change in sales execution, channel management, partnerships, creation of a community and a host of other issues that could create stumbling blocks along the way.

Despite the challenges, I do feel that Polycom is aligned to industry trends better than maybe at any other time in the past decade. After discussing the strategy with CMO Hutchinson, I am of the opinion that the company is no longer content with being the alternative provider and wants to be in control of its own future. The new logo is nice but I really like the shift to a software oriented company.