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Polycom Goes Further to Address Workplace of the Future

People not deeply familiar with the unified communications industry still know Polycom as one of the vendors that provides video endpoints in conference rooms. Some might also know that the company makes those weird looking speaker phones that mimic the Cylon base ships from the new Battlestar Galactica. Ask a non-communications person what differentiates Polycom from the many other video vendors out there and they probably can't tell you.

This is something Polycom has been actively trying to change over the past few years, and today the company announced several new solutions and product updates to not just let people see each other when in separate locations but genuinely change the way people collaborate with one another. The newly updated portfolio is tightly aligned with the "Defy Distance" go-to-market campaign the company has been running over the past year or so.

If you're not familiar with the campaign, Defy Distance was designed to help educate customers on how video can be used to streamline or create new business processes. Polycom focused on selling directly to line-of-business managers and sold a solution for a particular problem rather than selling technology. For example, Polycom offers a video-based solution for businesses to use to streamline the remote interviewing process for multi-national companies. Instead of flying people halfway around the world for an interview, use the solution Polycom put together. However, instead of simply selling a bunch of endpoints, Polycom went the extra step and integrated their products with a commonly used HR application.

New Solutions
This theme of going the extra step is what Polycom's announcements today are all about. The first new product, EagleEye Producer, looks like any old video camera that one might find in a conference room today. However, the product is much more than that. The unit has the ability to automatically find and track people as they move around a room so users can work naturally instead of having to alter their position and work style because of a fixed camera. Also, Producer provides analytics information so organizations can understand room utilization to optimize resource planning.

The other new product, RealPresence Video App SDK, enables developers to quickly drop video into a Web page or other application. Video-enabled applications allow workers to collaborate in a single application instead of having to flip between different apps. The Polycom solution integrates with other standards-based endpoints and integrates with third party services like call signaling and provisioning from Broadsoft. This should help Polycom build new solutions to expand its Defy Distance campaign into almost any vertical.

Product Updates
In addition to the two new products, Polycom updated a number of existing solutions with new features. These include the following:

  • Added NoiseBlock and Acoustic Fence to RealPresence Group Series. Both features are used to control the amount of noise in a video session to create an optimized experience.
  • Directory integration in RealPresence CloudAXIS, a tool that can be used to simplify meeting scheduling and control
  • Full, native Lync 2013 conferencing and Broadsoft UC One integration with Polycom UC software
  • Cross platform Lync 2013 certification for broader integration into Lync workflows

Polycom has always been a great engineering company, but over the past couple of years the company seems to have learned that well-engineered products don't always win. Products need to be usable by workers who don't have a deep understanding of telecom. This is one of the reasons for poor video adoption in business.

Laser Focus
I'm not 100% sure when the switch flipped inside Polycom, but the company is now laser focused on building solutions that aren't just easy to use with the right training but intuitively easy to use. The engineering quality is still there, and as processors are getting faster and bandwidth increasing, the quality of the solutions today is light years ahead of products built even five years ago.

Polycom has also made the IT administrator's job easier with products that deploy faster, require less support, and interoperate with a broader ecosystem. I like the focus on providing analytics information to aid businesses in understanding how the products are being used so that better decisions can be made regarding what to deploy, where to deploy it, and what kind of results to expect.

Polycom needs to compete more as a platform vendor that can deliver a high quality collaboration experience to any device from the cloud - on premises or in a hybrid model. This can help it break away from all of the point product vendors that have popped up over the past few years.

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