Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
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Brian Riggs | October 11, 2012 |


Polycom Actions; Competitors' Reactions

Polycom Actions; Competitors' Reactions Polycom is aiming to catch up to smaller, nimbler competitors...and those smaller, nimbler competitors are showing themselves as justifiably nervous.

Polycom is aiming to catch up to smaller, nimbler competitors...and those smaller, nimbler competitors are showing themselves as justifiably nervous.

Lots of interesting news from Polycom this week. Highlights include platforms and endpoints supporting Scalable Video Coding (SVC), devices supporting 1080p 60-frames-per-second resolution, and a much-needed software-based MCU that will start with a mid-market appliance in the near term, lead to a data center deployment model in the mid-term, and end in a white-label cloud service way down the road.

I won't go into the details because others have done a pretty good job separating the product announcement wheat from way too much marketing chaff. (And if you're a Current Analysis client, you can read my Intelligence Report on the Polycom announcement here.) Instead, let's spend a little time looking at the very interesting reactions that the Polycom announcement provoked among its competitors.

Vidyo got some, maybe all, of the details of Polycom's announcement in advance and launched a preemptive strike that, at least in part, took the form of talking with industry analysts last week and issuing a press release. In both briefing and release, Vidyo presented itself as a mover and shaker behind SVC standardization and interoperability: "Vidyo's continued contributions to these standards [RFC 6190 and SVC extensions to H.241] are intended to ensure interoperability of this new generation of video communication solutions." Days later Polycom issued a press release saying SVC interop is on the top of its mind too: "Polycom's standards-based SVC implementation is built on a framework developed by the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum...and Polycom is licensing its SVC implementation free of charge to the UCI Forum and others to ensure adoption and industry-wide interoperability."

Sadly, despite the existence of standards-making bodies, interoperability forums, royalty-free licensing, endless posturing, and unseemly finger pointing, there is no such thing as multivendor interoperability when it comes to H.264 SVC. As with SIP, every vendor technically adheres to the standard, but implements it differently so that multivendor interoperability is difficult at best, impossible at worst. Vendors then accuse their competitors of not being truly standards-compliant. And as with SIP, there's no sign of this changing.

Radvision, now "an Avaya company," also got in the action, scheduling time to talk with industry analysts a few days after Polycom dropped its big release. Radvision touched on interoperability and standards, pointing out in an email to analysts that "Radvision solutions are already SVC-enabled and have been since for more than three years" and "SVC is supported on Radvision's Elite MCU, XT endpoints, and Scopia Desktop."

The company also took aim at Polycom's new RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite, saying that its ability to invite Skype, Facebook and Google Talk users to a video conferencing session comes seven years after Scopia Desktop users were able to send invitations to non-Scopia users via email.

And as for Polycom's new RealPresence Collaboration Server 800s, Virtual Edition, the Radvision email to analysts says: "This is just a software version of their current RMX MCU with underwhelming capacities. It does not support some of the key market features, such as 1080p or 60fps. It supports SVC but Radvision MCUs have been supporting UCI Forum-compatible SVC for more than three years with the introduction of the Scopia Elite MCU 5000 Series."

And finally there's LifeSize, which went on an all-out offensive with a blog that called Polycom's announcements vaporware and "BS". In an exchange on Twitter, LifeSize further explained, "We argue that it's difficult to see how these products compete in the current marketplace without knowing all of the details."

To understand and appreciate LifeSize's perspective, remember that this is a company that announces new products only when they become generally available. To be perfectly honest, I wish all vendors did this. No silly hype cycle leading up to the next version of some software product that won't ship for months. No CxO keynotes that tease new products that we never hear about again. If all companies in the UC market took LifeSize's approach there would be a level of honesty and accountability that is all-too-often lacking in many a PR initiative.

But more often than not that's not the way product rollouts happen. New products are regularly announced well in advance and there can be a fuzzy line between what will be delivered on time as promised, what will be delivered late and different than promised, and what is vaporware that will never be delivered.

So is the Polycom announcement vaporware, as LifeSize contends?

Next Page: The verdict


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