Video conferencing vendor FuzeBox is now Fuze, and with the name change comes a new user interface for Apple's iPad tablet and a partnership with service provider British Telecom to expand the reach of Fuze's freemium service.
The company is helping to drive the ongoing trend of consumerization of video collaboration, and the name change and new offerings reflect Fuze's efforts in this area, according to CEO David Obrand, who came to Fuze in September 2013 after stints at Yammer and Salesforce.com. Fuze offers a cloud-based video communications solution, and the "box" in the name put a sort of hardware feel to the company.
The vendor's new name, offerings and future plans better reflect Fuze's efforts to help bring the ease of use consumers find in the applications they use in their personal lives to their work environments, Obrand told eWEEK. The new iPad app is an example of that, and the alliance with BT will help drive more users to Fuze's solutions, he said. Fuze also is busy bringing in executives who have experience in the space.
"Part of being a company that follows the consumerization [of IT] is you really have to be a smart company," Obrand said.
The video conferencing space is undergoing a tremendous amount of change. Established players such as Cisco Systems and Polycom became the dominant players initially by selling large, expensive room-based telepresence systems. However, trends like greater employee mobility, consumerization of IT, cloud computing and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) have driven a growing demand for video conferencing solutions that let people collaborate from anywhere at any time and on any device, from a large room-based system to tablets and smartphones.
That has driven down sales of video conferencing equipment—IDC analysts have tracked the continued contraction of the equipment industry for several quarters—and given rise to a range of smaller vendors—such as Vidyo, Blue Jeans Network and Fuze—looking to leverage software and the cloud to offer alternatives to Cisco and Polycom. At the same time, Cisco, Polycom and others, including LifeSize Communications, are building out their software- and cloud-based video capabilities.
The trends make sense to Obrand, who said people are looking for solutions that make video conferences as easy as telephone calls, offer high video and audio quality, and fit in with their everyday work lives.
"It really shouldn't change the way you work," Obrand said.
Fuze is offering a new app for the iPad, which is designed to offer the similar capabilities as the older app—people will have the same experience on any device, and can easily move from one device to another during a meeting—but will have a user interface based on icons, making it easier for customers to use the app. Fuze will bring the new app to other platforms, including the iPhone, Android and Windows, later, he said.
Fuze also is looking to accelerate the adoption of its freemium service, which is designed to give people a taste of what the solution offers in hopes that they will want to move to a paying service. Fuze announced the freemium service the same time Obrand came on board, and just as the company closed out a $26 million round of financing. The freemium service has been a success, the CEO said, noting that since then, monthly signup rates have almost tripled, with new users representing a quarter of Fortune 500 companies. Groupon is one customer, deploying Fuze's technology to more than 11,000 employees in 48 countries.
With the freemium service, customers can use Fuze's core audio and video solutions, and those in the United States get unlimited access to a toll-free number. After 60 days, they can move to a paying service or continue using Fuze technology, though without the toll-free number. Customers who decide to pay can choose the Pro plan for $96 per year—which includes the U.S. toll-free number—or the Enterprise plan for $20 per month per user.
The partnership with BT will enable the service provider's customers to not only get the Fuze technology, but also access to local toll-free numbers.
The Fuze technology lets users schedule Fuze meetings via Microsoft Outlook and Google Calendar, and Fuze's Telepresence Connect service lets customers connect to video conferencing systems from the likes of Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize. In addition, users before meetings can get information of who has been invited, documents that will be used and the agenda. Afterward, they get a summary of the meeting, with data that can be analyzed to see how the conference went.