Lifesize’s all-in-one video conferencing offerings are touted as alternatives to more expensive telepresence systems from the likes of Cisco and Polycom.
Lifesize Communications is rolling
out a pair of all-in-one high-definition video conferencing solutions that
officials said offer the advantages of HD telepresence systems without the high
costs and complexities.
Lifesize officials on May 15
unveiled the first offerings in their new Unity Series, the Unity 50 and Unity
500 solutions. The all-in-one systems not only offer businesses HD video
conferencing, but they can be set up quickly and operated easily, all at a
fraction of the cost of larger immersive telepresence systems from the likes of
Cisco Systems and Polycom, according to company officials.
The Unity offerings not only will
drive down costs for enterprises looking for alternatives to the more expensive
solutions, but also bring HD video conferencing capabilities to smaller
companies that in the past may not have been able to afford them, according to
Michael Helmbrecht, vice president and general manager of video solutions at
LifeSize, which is owned by Logitech.
With the LifeSize Unity Series, the
telepresence experience is now in reach for companies of all sizes, Helmbrecht
said in a statement Businesses need to speed decision making and improve
productivity across the entire organization. By creating a series of products
optimized to provide a telepresence-class experience, yet simple to deploy and
use, we are making HD video conferencing easier than ever to bring to every
home office, executive office or conference room.
With the Unity Series, Lifesize
joins other video collaboration vendorssuch as Vidyo, with its VidyoPanorama
offeringlooking to provide
businesses with cost-effective alternatives to what Cisco and Polycom offer.
The company also is adding fuel to a debate about the future of traditional
telepresence systems that was kicked off by a column on Forbes.com
May 3. In that column, Jeff Cavins, CEO of FuzeBoxwhich provides
cloud-based video conferencing and telepresence servicesargued that the cost
and complexity associated with the systems from Cisco and Polycom are dooming
their telepresence businesses, due in large part to the rise of less costly
Thanks to these [traditional]
systems, telepresence has grown into a 4 billion-dollar per year industry,
Cavins wrote. Today, however, the juggernauts of the market, such as Cisco and
Polycom, are being outmaneuvered by a number of upstart companies.
Lifesizes Helmbrecht, in a May 14
post on the company blog
, had a similar point of view.
So why is telepresence becoming
obsolete, he wrote. The answer comes down to the two most valuable aspects of
any companys business: time and money.
Not everyone agrees. Zeus Kerravala,
principal analyst with ZK Research, said in a May 9 post on the No Jitter blog site
that talk of telepresences imminent
demise is premature. His reasoning? While mobility, interoperability and the
cloud will make it easier to offer cheaper and easier high-quality video,
neither Cisco nor Polycom have quit improving their products.
The real question to be asked here
is whether there is enough innovation left in telepresence to allow Polycom and
Cisco to stay ahead of the commodity curve, and I think the answer to that is
yes, Kerravala wrote.
Their telepresence systems do a good
job replicating the face-to-face aspect of meetings, he said, but there are a
number of other areas where they canand most likely willbe improved. Those
innovations could include creating more links to other collaborative
applications, improving desktop and document sharing, real-time scanning for
sharing paper notes, improved integration with white boards, business card
scanners, easier recording capabilities and tagging of people, Kerravala said.
So are the telepresence business
units for Polycom and Cisco in trouble, as the article would suggest? he
wrote. Certainly, if they remain as is, but I still think there is tremendous
amount of innovation to be done by both companies to stay ahead of the
Lifesizes Unity solutionstwo right
now, with more on the way later this year, according to officialsare part of
that competitive curve. The integrated offerings take minutes to assemble
(without the need of tools) and bring high-quality video, audio and
presentation features, and can be redeployed easily, they said. Unity 50 is a
tabletop or wall-mounted solution offering 720p30 video quality with a 24-inch
display. Its aimed at executive offices, small workplaces and home offices,
and is powered by Lifesizes Passport technology
, officials said.
Unity 500 offers a 40-inch screen,
1080p30 video quality and is targeting executive offices and small meeting
rooms. Officials said it offers immersive video quality that can be assembled
in less than 10 minutes, and is powered by Lifesizes Express 220 technology.
Lifesize officials point to price as
a key differentiator, noting that the Unity starts at $3,999 and the Unity 500
at $19,999, much lower than the hundreds of thousands of dollars Cisco and
Polycom charge for some of their telepresence offerings.
Video conferencing started getting
serious looks from businesses during the economic downturn several years ago.
Organizations began looking for ways to reduce travel costs and increase
employee productivity. Now the market is growing fast. IDC analysts said in
March that the global video conferencing market grew to about $2.7 billion in
revenue in 2011, about a 20.6 percent jump over 2010. They expect revenue to
jump to $3.2 billion in 2012, a rise of about 18.7 percent.