Polycom Unveils Virtualized, Immersive Video Conferencing Solutions

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-02-11

Polycom Unveils Virtualized, Immersive Video Conferencing Solutions

Polycom is addressing the increasing demands in video conferencing for cloud-based and virtualized software solutions with new offerings designed to make it easier to buy and deploy the technologies in its RealPresence platform.

At the same time, the company is returning to its hardware roots with a massive immersive room system designed to challenge rival Cisco Systems for high-end video conferencing deployments. At the same time, the RealPresence Immersive Studio also recognizes the trend toward greater worker mobility and the need for people to be able to participate in video conferences from anywhere and on any device.

The company, which announced the new offerings Feb. 11 at its Team Polycom conference, is aiming to make it easier for any business to find and install a video conferencing system that best fits its needs and budgets, according to John Antanaitis, vice president of solutions marketing at Polycom.

"It doesn't matter what size your organization is, we want to enable your organization to embrace the power of video collaboration," Antanaitis told eWEEK.

The new offerings come at a time of transition for the video conferencing market, he said. Most C-level executives understand the benefits of video communications in improving productivity and growing the business. What they are looking for now is help in getting these solutions selected and running.

"It's no longer 'Do you want video and do you understand video?'" Antanaitis said. "It's now about how you want your video delivered."

Increasingly that is via software, and the cloud will continue to play a growing role, according to analysts. IDC analysts have tracked the continued shrinking of revenues tied to video conferencing equipment as organizations opt for less costly software-based options. In December, the analyst firm found that in the third quarter 2013, sales of video conferencing equipment fell 9.7 percent over the same period in 2012.

Interest in video conferencing remains high, but "we are definitely starting to see the impact of lower-cost video systems and more software-centric products and offerings on the enterprise video equipment market," Rich Costello, senior analyst of enterprise communications infrastructure at IDC, said in a statement at the time.

Officials with Blue Jeans Network, one of a growing number of smaller vendors that are offering software- and cloud-based solutions, said earlier this month that the company saw about 500 percent growth in 2013, including a 50 percent growth in monthly usage of its technology and 100 percent growth in monthly subscribers in January. The company kicked off a limited promotion to encourage organizations to leave Web conferencing and video communications solutions from Cisco and Polycom in favor of Blue Jeans Network's offerings.

Polycom's Antanaitis acknowledged the rise of competitors like Blue Jeans and Vidyo, but said that such vendors don't offer the same level of expertise or the broad portfolio of Polycom. The range of new offerings is a testament to that, he said.


Polycom Unveils Virtualized, Immersive Video Conferencing Solutions

RealPresence One brings together much of Polycom's offerings—including video, voice and content collaboration—into a single software solution that is available on a subscription basis. The solution is aimed at businesses that are looking to implement such technologies for the first time, he said.

RealPresence Platform, Virtual Editions offer organizations the individual parts of the RealPresence platform as virtualized software that can run on x86-based industry-standard servers in the data center. The offerings enable organizations to expand or streamline their existing video networks and can help create hybrid networks by being able to run alongside hardware video appliances. They also can interoperate with products from other vendors as well, Antanaitis said.

The RealPresence Immersive Studio offering is designed for major video conferences that include participants in disparate locations and that need a high-end, flexible system. The offering includes up to three 84-inch flat panels that make up a "video wall" as well as another 55-inch panel that sits on top that can be used to display documents via Polycom's VisualBoard virtual whiteboard technology.

At the same time, the massive system supports the growing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend by enabling participants to share content from such mobile devices as tablets, smartphones and notebooks. The virtual whiteboard and the other ways participants can share such content as business documents, CAD drawings and blueprints are a key part of the immersive solution, Antanaitis said.

"When push comes to shove, content is really becoming the king," he said.

Polycom's announcement comes at a busy time in the video conferencing space. Polycom and Microsoft a week earlier announced an expansion of their partnership around the software giant's Lync unified communications platform. The same week, Vidyo announced that it had created a product that will enable users of Google's Google+ Hangouts to connect with audio and video conferencing platforms from other vendors, including Cisco, Polycom and Avaya.

The same day, Google announced that it had launched a Chromebox that leverages Google Apps and Google+ Hangouts services to offer a packaged collaboration solution.


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