Craig Malloy left video conferencing vendor LifeSize Communications, the company he founded in 2003, two years ago to lead a startup company that makes online training software.
While CEO of Bloomfire, Malloy said the 30-employee company needed a way to collaborate remotely, even though it didn't have the money for any infrastructure or an IT staff to manage a video conferencing environment. What he found was that the video conferencing space he'd left following his decade with LifeSize didn't have a solution that was simple to use or cost-effective and could meet the needs of his company.
"We needed video, but … we just couldn't do it," Malloy told eWEEK.
During his two years away from LifeSize, he had kept an eye on the rapidly evolving video conferencing market and had ideas about what vendors needed to do to meet the changing needs of businesses. That combined with the frustration at Bloomfire convinced him to come back to LifeSize, a move he made in February when he was reappointed CEO of the company and senior vice president of parent company Logitech.
Three months later, the company is introducing LifeSize Cloud, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that Malloy said will deliver business-class video collaboration to organizations that is scalable, easy to use and affordable, and will let people participate in conferences from whatever device they choose and from wherever they are.
"For the very first time, we are enabling any company of any size to completely and cost-efficiently supply their entire staff with video conferencing," the CEO said.
LifeSize Cloud comes at a time of transition for the video conferencing space. Organizations that are dealing with such trends as an increasingly distributed workforce and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) are moving away from expensive and complex room-based systems and opting for lower-cost software- and cloud-based alternatives. IDC analysts have chronicled the worldwide revenue declines for video conferencing equipment over the past couple of years.
"Video as a key component of collaboration continues to place high on the list of priorities for many organizations," Petr Jirovsky, research manager for IDC's Worldwide Networking Trackers, said in February. "Among the challenges customers are currently trying to work through are a market transition and determining exactly when and how to provision their video deployments as more software-centric and cloud-based service offerings become part of the enterprise video market landscape."
Established vendors like Cisco Systems and Polycom, though still investing in their hardware portfolios, also are building out their software and cloud video solutions. At the same time, a growing number of smaller companies, including Blue Jeans Network and Vidyo, are offering cloud- and software-only alternatives.
LifeSize's Malloy said his company gives businesses the most complete video conferencing platform for both on-premises and cloud environments. Users can choose any device to participate in a conference via the LifeSize Cloud app, and the company's Icon room video system works immediately out of the box by connecting it to the network and logging in with the user's credentials. Through the cloud service, users can share their company's internal directory and use a range of features, from click to call, presence and presentation sharing. In addition, they can schedule meetings or connect instantly, he said.
Businesses can have up to 25-way calls in high-definition video or audio for every user and virtual meeting, and pricing starts at $25 per month for 25 users, or up to $7,500 annually. The service is available now.
Malloy said the LifeSize solution offers advantages that competitive offerings can't. Traditional on-premises offerings—like those from Cisco, Polycom and even LifeSize for much of its life—are expensive and difficult to scale, while Web conferencing and "meet me" cloud video services don't include connected conference rooms, he said. Free consumer services like Skype have limitations—such as the low number of people who can attend a conference—in business settings.
"Just like companies using QuickBooks [accounting software] go onto NetSuite as they grow up, many companies move off of Skype to a more professional solution," he said.
Malloy's return to LifeSize comes after some difficult times for the company. There were reports last year that Logitech officials were considering selling the LifeSize business, which the company bought in 2009 for $405 million. However, Logitech kept LifeSize and has expanded its offerings. Logitech officials in April said the parent company had a strong first three months of the year, though its video business—which is anchored by LifeSize—saw revenues hit $30.9 million, a decline from the $36.2 million in the same period in 2013.