LifeSize Communications has been rapidly growing its cloud-based video conferencing capabilities since founder Craig Malloy returned as CEO a year ago, and it is starting off the new year with more enhancements aimed at expanding the reach of the technology within its customers’ businesses.
LifeSize, which is a division of Logitech, next month will being enabling LifeSize Cloud customers to connect to video meetings from their Web browsers, through Microsoft’s Lynch unified communications (UC) platform, and from Google Calendar and Microsoft Outlook.
At the same time, LifeSize on Jan. 14 unveiled two new low-cost systems—the Icon 400 and Icon Flex—that bring high-end video conferencing capabilities to smaller meeting rooms.
The new offerings are part of LifeSize’s larger efforts to embrace the growing demand for lower-cost video conferencing technology that offers solid performance and scalability while bringing the ease of use that workers have grown used to through the services—such as Skype—and applications—like Yelp and Pandora—that they use in their personal lives, Malloy told eWEEK.
“The demand for video has never been higher, but this time it’s being driven by consumer technology,” he said.
Customers are looking for video collaboration technology that is easy to deploy and that can be leveraged anytime from anywhere and on any device, whether it’s a conference-room system or a tablet or smartphone. More workers are doing their jobs out of the office—either from the road or from remote offices or homes—and increasingly are using their own devices for work, forcing businesses to adopt bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. These workers want to be able to collaborate from wherever they are and on whatever device they have on hand.
These demands are roiling the video conferencing market. IDC analysts have been tracking the space for years, documenting the slowing sales of expensive and complex conference-room hardware as organizations migrate to lower-cost video collaboration offerings that are more software- and cloud-based.
Rich Costello, senior analyst for enterprise communications infrastructure at IDC, said in August 2014 that the mixed numbers on video equipment sales are “indicative of the ongoing transition from a primarily hardware-based reporting model to one impacted by the interest in and growth of video subscription services. On the bright side for the video equipment vendors, most or all of these vendors now offer, or are ramping-up to offer, cloud-based video alternatives to customers—in addition to their own lower cost, premises-based systems.”
LifeSize, which like Cisco Systems and Polycom made its name initially on video collaboration hardware, is now moving aggressively in building up its cloud and software capabilities. Cisco and Polycom also are growing their cloud and software portfolios, and a growing number of smaller companies are offering solutions that are only software- and cloud-based. The cloud is becoming pervasive in many aspects of computing, Malloy said.
“That cloud infrastructure trend is caringly moving into video conferencing as well,” he said.
LifeSize Expands Cloud-Based Video Conferencing Solution
LifeSize unveiled its cloud-based offering in May 2014 and has been adding capabilities to it over the past several months. The latest enhancements continue that trend. Through LifeSize Cloud’s support for WebRTC, users can connect to video calls with one click through the use of Web browsers, including Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, Android’s Chrome or Apple’s Safari. In addition, LifeSize is offering integration via an Outlook plug-in and Chrome Extension, enabling users to schedule video meetings and invite people directly from Outlook and Google Calendar without having to open the LifeSize Cloud application.
In addition, Microsoft Lync users can join LifeSize Cloud meetings from their Lync client application through a single click.
The Icon 400 and Icon Flex systems are designed to bring video collaboration to every conference room, particularly those designed for smaller meetings. The Icon 400 is targeted at what Malloy called “huddle rooms,” where small groups of people meet. It’s designed to be high performance, low cost (starting at $2,499 and available immediately) and easy to use, he said.
The system offers an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to add participants and share content. In addition, it can be connected to the LifeSize Cloud in four steps: The system is connected to power, a display and an IP connection, and then the user enters the LifeSize Cloud username and password. Participants can connect to the meeting through their notebooks, tablets and smartphones, and the system can support up to 25 attendees.
Icon Flex is designed for businesses that already use another collaboration application—such as Lync, Skype, Google Hangouts, Cisco’s Jabber and WebEx, or Citrix System’s GoToMeeting—as their primary technologies. By plugging a PC or Mac into a USB, the Icon Flex system can take over the video and audio needs of the meeting, improving the quality of the meeting, Malloy said. Businesses can either use a beam-forming table-top microphone for audio or the LifeSize Phone.
Icon Flex will be available in March starting at $1,999.