Spring VON: Polycom
At VON today, Polycom announced a few products to help beef up the low end of its stable of IP phones. The SoundPoint IP 330 and 320 are both two-line phones with full duplex speakerphones and integrated power-over-Ethernet support. Prices start at $179 for the IP 330 and $129 for the IP 320. The difference between the two units is the number of Ethernet ports: the IP 330 has 2 ports, so users can cascade a PC from the phone, while the IP 320 only has one port and is intended for locations like lobbies or hallways. Polycom also announced an enhancement to its Communicator personal speakerphone product. The original iteration (now called the Communicator C100S) of the device was designed to work with Skype, which we found it did quite well, but it did not work well with other voice softphones. The new version (the Communicator C100) now also supports CounterPath's EyeBeam and X-Lite softphones as well as BroadSoft's BroadWorks Communicator IP. In my initial talks with Polycom about the Communicator last year, I got the impression that other voice applications would be supported down the road via firmware releases. That has turned out to be slightly incorrect. The new iteration, while still bearing the Communicator name, is a new SKU. Existing Communicator units will not be upgradable to support more voice applications, which is extremely disappointing since the unit we tested is less than a year old. And now it is completely obsolete. According to Polycom's folks, look for the SpectraLink sale to be finalized next week. It sounds like the plan is to leave SpectraLink's development team alone for the most part, but the products will be rebranded under the Polycom name. I also had a chance to sample Polycom's HD Voice in an isolation booth on the show floor. Indeed, HD Voice is significantly clearer, deeper and richer sounding than what I could hear from the non-HD phones. Polycom also announced a new HD phone, the SoundPoint IP 550. One of the marketing blurbs in the booth touted the advantages of HD Voice, saying it was the end of missed nuance and words in phone calls. But is this really a problem that needed solving for desk phones? I can't recall yelling "What? What?" into a desk phone for, well, ever. Sure, for cell phones this is an ongoing problem, one to which we have all angrily adapted. But HD Voice is a point-to-point solution within an organization at this time. I don't get it.