LifeSize Expands Video-Collaboration Offerings Into the Cloud

LifeSize is looking to differentiate itself from Cisco and Polycom by making its video-collaboration products less expensive, easier to use and accessible to everyone.

LifeSize Communications is looking to compete against larger rivals Cisco Systems and Polycom in the highly competitive high-definition video-conferencing space by offering solutions that are easier to deploy, less expensive and available on a wider array of endpoints.

To that end, LifeSize officials July 20 announced a number of moves designed to make it easier for businesses of all sizes to adopt video conferencing and to bring the video-collaboration experience to anyone at any time on any device, either on-premise or through the cloud, according to Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing at LifeSize. The announcements touch on such high-interest areas as mobility and cloud computing.

Some of the new offerings also represent the first joint products from LifeSize and Logitech, which bought LifeSize in late 2009.

LifeSize officials announced that they are buying Mirial, a small Italian company that offers a variety of video-collaboration solutions that range from endpoints for conference rooms to software that enables video conferencing on such devices as desktops, tablets and smartphones. The software offers interoperable video collaboration for PC and Mac environments as well as devices running Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile operating systems, including the iPhone 4, 3GS and iPad 2, HTC smartphones like the EVO, Desire, Incredible and ThunderBolt, Motorola's Atrix smartphone and Xoom tablet, Samsung's Epic 4G and Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablet, Google's Nexus S smartphone and Dell's Streak tablet.

The Mirial acquisition comes at a time when consumer devices-such as smartphones and tablets-are finding their way into the business world, often with employees bringing in their own devices and demanding that they have access to their companies' networks. Emerging enterprise technologies like video collaboration are key capabilities these employees are looking for, Helmbrecht said in an interview with eWEEK.

In an increasingly mobile business world, such capabilities will only grow in importance.

"There's going to be a lot of people who want to use [these devices] for productivity, rather than being tied to their conference room or PC," Helmbrecht said.

The Mirial products will help LifeSize fill a hole in its portfolio, he said. Prior to the deal, LifeSize had one product, LifeSize Desktop, for PCs, nothing for Macs and little if anything for mobile devices. LifeSize immediately will begin selling Mirial products, and those products will be integrated into future LifeSize offerings, according to officials.

In addition, LifeSize announced LifeSize Connections, a cloud-based HD (high-definition) video-collaboration platform that leverages capabilities from both LifeSize and Logitech. The offering helps connect video-conferencing systems in conference rooms to PCs or Macs, and makes it easy for users to bring other people into the conference, regardless of where they are or what endpoint they're using.

Users can bring people into the conference by sending them a download link and guest registration, enabling dynamic and ad hoc meetings rather than having to set up such meetings in advance, Helmbrecht said.

And as with most cloud-based offerings, LifeSize Connections gives enterprises and midmarket companies a scalable video-collaboration platform that doesn't require expensive on-premise products and helps keep operating costs down. Users can get up to nine people on a video conference, with a cost of $30 per user per month for desktop licenses or $100 per month per room.

"This really is about making it ubiquitous," Helmbrecht said, adding that it is affordable and easy to use. "It needs to be like other forms of communications."

Staying with the cloud, LifeSize unveiled Passport Connect, an HD video-conferencing endpoint that is optimized for cloud platforms, including LifeSize Connections. The product includes an easier user experience, and is the first from LifeSize to leverage Logitech technology-in this case, an HD camera.

The 720p endpoint costs less $1,499, or less than $1,000 with a one-year subscription to LifeSize Connections.

Helmbrecht said the new offerings illustrate how LifeSize plans to differentiate itself from larger rivals Cisco and Polycom-through a less expensive, simplified and easier user experience. The systems from Cisco and Polycom tend to be more complex, he said, because those companies "use complexity as a way to justify the price."