LifeSize Brings Passport HD Video Conferencing to Skype

LifeSize executives say their Passport HD video collaboration product will now interoperate with Skype's technology. Through the deal, LifeSize gets access to Skype's 600 million users, while Skype gets to build out its enterprise capabilities.

LifeSize Communications is bringing its Passport high-definition video conferencing capabilities to Skype.

LifeSize officials announced April 19 that its Passport product, launched in 2009 and aimed at SMBs, home offices and mobile workers, is now qualified to work with Skype, the Internet-based video calling company that has more than 600 million users.

Now that Passport can be plugged into Skype, users of Passport-which offers telepresence-level quality-can talk with Skype users via video conferencing.

"We now fully work in the Skype ecosystem," Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing, said in an interview with eWEEK.

For LifeSize, a company owned by Logitech, the partnership gives it access to Skype's massive customer base, Helmbrecht said. Skype, which began its life as a consumer-focused company, gets another path into the business world.

"This initiative enables Skype to be part of the room-based enterprise video conferencing market," David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype Enterprise, said in a statement. "With the -consumerization of IT,' whereby people are bringing Skype into the workplace, more enterprises are looking for synergistic solutions like this that include Skype. We're delighted that LifeSize is helping them address customer demand by delivering enterprise-class video conferencing with Skype."

The software that will enable LifeSize Passport and Skype video calling will be available for download this month.

LifeSize is battling in a market populated with a growing number of players, from Cisco Systems, Polycom and Hewlett-Packard to Radvision. Along with building out its portfolio, LifeSize also is looking to partnerships to help it compete. Most recently, LifeSize executives announced in February that their lineup of HD video conferencing products, including the 220 Series and Passport offerings, now interoperates with Microsoft's Lync communications platform, and later this year will be qualified to work with the software giant's Communications Service 2007 R2.

The video collaboration space also is a rapidly growing market. Market research firm Infonetics Research said in a report in March that the video conferencing and telepresence market grew 18 percent in 2010-to $2.2 billion-and will reach $5 billion by 2015. The trend is being driven by a desire among enterprises to increase productivity and communication with employees as well as the need to drive down travel expenses, a push that gained steam during the global recession, according to Infonetics analysts.

"Communicating via video continues to be one of the top trends in telecom, as evidenced by strong growth in the enterprise video market," Infonetics analyst Matthias Machowinski said in a statement.

Infonetics' report said that Cisco-particularly after its $3.4 billion acquisition of telepresence rival Tandberg in 2010-is the top vendor in the space, garnering about half of the revenue in 2010. Polycom is second in revenue, but tops in units shipped.

Helmbrecht said the 2009 acquisition by Logitech has been a boon to LifeSize. Where previously the vendor may have been seen by some enterprises as a risk, having the backing of a large company like Logitech has given LifeSize greater visibility among bigger businesses, he said.

Along with the Skype deal, LifeSize also unveiled a study by Forrester Research done on LifeSize's behalf that indicates a LifeSize Fortune 500 customer-the European division of an unnamed Japanese consumer electronics company-will see an ROI of 392 percent over five years using video collaboration technology. In addition, the technology will enable the company to reach its carbon emission reduction goals, according to the Forrester study.