Polycom officials, in their increasing competition with Cisco Systems in the unified communications space, are relying partners to expand the reach of their technology.
Polycom on Nov. 8 announced that Samsung will embed Polycom's standards-based video applications on to its upcoming Galaxy Tab tablet PC, a move officials said will benefit corporations and consumers alike. In addition, Polycom is expanding its partnership with BroadSoft to offer service providers a BroadCloud Video-enabled UC cloud offering that they in turn can offer to their business customers.
Company officials also announced that they will better address the consumer, mobile and SMB markets by creating technology based on the H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding) standard for current and future offerings.
The latest offerings illustrate Polycom's commitment to both working closely with partners in pushing solutions onto the market and in leveraging industry standards, according to company Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Joe Burton.
"It's a heterogeneous, diverse world," Burton said in an interview with eWEEK.
Enterprises have already invested a lot of money into their current communications infrastructures, he said. What they don't want to do is be asked to tear up what they already have to install new products. Instead, they want their new solutions to work with what's already in place, whether that's from Polycom or another vendor, he said. Interoperability is important. For Polycom, the key is to have its solutions support such standards as H.264 and H.323 for audio-visual communications, Burton said.
Increasing interoperability within the UC space has been a key issue for vendors. In May, Polycom joined a number of other vendors, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Juniper Networks to create the UCIF (Unified Communications Interoperability Forum) (/c/a/VOIP-and-Telephony/Microsoft-Polycom-HP-Create-UC-Interoperability-Group-761403/), a group aimed at creating interoperability between vendor solutions using currently existing standards.
That announcement came five months after Cisco unveiled its TIP (Telepresence Interoperability Protocol) (/c/a/VOIP-and-Telephony/Cisco-Looks-to-Expand-TelePresence-with-Protocol-New-Apps-540055/), a proposed standard for interoperability between telepresence and video communications systems. Cisco expect TIP-which has gotten the support of Radivision, among others-to become an industry standard. However, Polycom officials said they are wary of any protocol effort that is being directed by such a large vendor like Cisco.
Polycom will make H.264 SVC available to a wide range of companies, including Avaya, HP and Microsoft, for free in hopes of expanding the support for the standard, a move that will make video communications more freely available now only to enterprises, but also SMBs and consumers. Burton said he envisions the H.264 standard helping bring a host of new devices-including consumer electronics like televisions and gaming consoles-to homes.
Polycom will eventually support other protocols, including TIP and Jingle, the company said.
Microsoft is among the first companies to sign up to adopt Polycom's H.264 products, with the initial focus on desktop video communications.
In addition, Polycom and Samsung announced that Polycom will develop video communications apps for the Android-based Galaxy Tab tablet PC, due out later this year. Burton said the Galaxy Tab will be the first of a growing number of Android-based mobile devices that will get Polycom apps, which will enable users to participate in video communications on their devices. Polycom also plans to get its apps onto mobile devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 as well as Apple products.
"You start to get the real ... effect of communications anywhere," he said.
The Samsung deal falls in line with Polycom's overall strategy, according to Sudhakar Ramakrishna, general manager of the company's UC products and chief development officer.
"Polycom's differentiated strategy is to deliver innovative UC solutions on partners' mobile platforms, as opposed to creating proprietary systems," Ramakrishna said in a statement.
Company officials see a great opportunity to get their products onto mobile devices. According to IDC, tablet shipments will grow from 7.6 million units this year to more than 46 million units in 2014. In addition, annual smartphone shipments now exceed 1 billion a year.
Polycom's expanded partnership with BroadSoft is designed to give service providers cloud-based business-to-business telepresence and high-definition voice solutions to offer their customers. It combines BroadSoft's recently announced BroadCloud Video hosted services and Polycom's HDX telepresence systems and VVX 1500 business media phones.
BroadSoft and Polycom already partner on a hosted telephony system that includes BroadSoft's BroadWorks telephony platform and Polycom's HD Voice desktop and conference phones. The new offering brings video into the mix, Burton said.
The hosted UC space is an important one to Polycom and its competitors. Wainhouse Research expects the market to grow to $6 billion by 2014.