As Polycom introduces a wide array of new video conference technology, the company says its partnership with Microsoft presents a strong challenge to Cisco Systems.
Polycom introduced a number of new video conference systems on Oct. 8 and a Polycom executive says that his company, in partnership with Microsoft, has been gaining market share at the expense of rival Cisco Systems.
Polycom introduced several new systems based on more than two years of research to widely revamp its product line, all of it now supporting the emerging scalable video coding (SVC) standard to deliver high-definition video across networks.
Announcements include the launch of the new Polycom RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite, which enables the user of a Polycom video conferencing system to connect to one-call participants using other systems such as Microsoft Skype, Facebook, Google Talk and others. Also, the RealPresence Platform has been enhanced to support the open standards-based SVC and deliver a three-fold increase in high-definition (HD) multipoint video capacity.
Improvements have also been made in the user experience on Polycom systems including Polycom SmartPairing, which allows a user participating in a video conference via a tablet computer to transfer the video call to a room-based system with a swipe of a hand on the tablet’s touch-screen. The tablet then becomes the remote control for the room system, letting the user access the corporate directory to add people to the call.
These and other new products and services enhance the usefulness of Polycom systems, including those that integrate with Microsoft unified communications technology such as Microsoft Lync and SharePoint, said Jim Kruger, senior vice president of product and solutions marketing at Polycom.
“With Microsoft, we have a high win rate against Cisco,” said Kruger, adding that Polycom already has 44 different products that interoperate with Cisco, and with this latest array products that number hits 50.
“A Polycom customer can have a Lync client running on their desktop computer and be able to connect into the RealPresence conferencing platform and make use of the greater multipoint capabilities in the upgraded system,” he said.
The difference between a Cisco system and a Polycom/Microsoft system serves as another example of the ongoing debate in IT between an end-to-end system versus a best-of-breed platform.
“Cisco’s strategy is ‘Buy from one vendor; we do everything end-to-end and if you have anything else on your network, rip it out and replace it with Cisco because we’re the best,’” Kruger said. “With Microsoft and Polycom, it’s more about best-of-breed, having options and choice because you have a choice beyond Polycom.If you want to use someone else besides Polycom in a Microsoft environment, you could.”
Offering to integrate with other video conference equipment and Microsoft platforms such as Lync is part of the reason Polycom says it has gained share in the market for video conference systems endpoint equipment at the expense of Cisco.
For the second quarter of 2012, Cisco’s share of the market was 44.6 percent, still the market leader but down 6.3 percent from the previous quarter and down 3.3 percent from the year-ago quarter, according to Synergy Research Group. Polycom was second with a share of 30.7 percent, up 4 percent from the previous quarter and up 2.6 percent from the year-ago quarter, according to the Synergy Research market study. Other vendors, including Huawei, Logitech, Vidyo and Avaya, each held market share in the single digits.
In a blog post Oct. 8, Thomas Wyatt, vice president and general manager of the Collaboration Infrastructure Business Unit at Cisco, wrote that Cisco is committed to the proliferation of standards adoption and that it is a member of standards bodies such as the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC).
“We have always been firm believers that video calling should be as easy and ubiquitous as making phone calls,” Wyatt wrote.
Cisco has often pursued a dual strategy in technology development of supporting standards creation while simultaneously developing proprietary technology that would differentiate itself from its competitors.