Lifesize Offers WebRTC Video Conferencing App

The new offering gives workers using Chrome-based devices access to the Lifesize Cloud without having to download software.

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Lifesize Communications, which over the past year has been aggressively building out its cloud-based video conferencing capabilities, is now offering a WebRTC-powered app aimed at customers using Google's Chrome browser.

The company, a division of Logitech, announced the Lifesize Cloud Web App Sept. 16, with officials saying it gives Chrome users full access to the Lifesize Cloud collaboration platform without requiring them to download software. App support for Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer will come in the near future, according to company officials.

The app comes at a time when businesses are migrating many of their IT tasks to the cloud and increasingly limiting the applications employees can load onto their computers, according to Michael Helmbrecht, Lifesize's chief product officer. At the same time, many companies also are adopting Chromebooks in their environments, another hurdle for users installing applications.

Customers increasingly were looking for ways to access Lifesize's cloud platform without forcing employees to download software onto their system. WebRTC is designed to enable browser-to-browser video communications without the need to install software. Through the new offering and single sign-on, customers get access to a fully-featured calling platform, from high-definition video and chat to screen sharing.

"It's exactly the same experience" users would get through the Lifesize Cloud via an installed application, Helmbrecht told eWEEK.

The move is part of Lifesize's larger strategy to offer its services through the cloud and move away from its traditional on-premises hardware lineup, an initiative started in early 2014 by founder and CEO Craig Malloy. Other established vendors, including Cisco Systems and Polycom, also are making strong cloud and software pushes, while a growing number of smaller companies and startups—such as Vidyo, Blue Jeans Network and Zoom Communications—offer cloud-only technologies.

It dovetails with the growing demand from businesses for cloud and software solutions. IDC analysts have tracked the trend, with sales of hardware giving way to cloud video conferencing.

"Video is still a key component of collaboration and continues to place high on the list of priorities for many organizations," Petr Jirovsky, research manager for IDC's Worldwide Networking Trackers unit, said in a statement earlier this month. "And customers continue to work through determining how best to provision their video deployments, as more software-centric and cloud-based service offerings become part of the enterprise video market landscape."

Lifesize has seen growing interest since kicking off its cloud push. According to Helmbrecht, the company now has 1,700 customers and 70,000 users of its cloud video conferencing products. The Lifesize Cloud Web App gives customers another avenue for accessing the cloud, he said.

The new offering also fits in with the growing use of WebRTC in devices. Lifesize officials pointed to numbers from market research firm Frost and Sullivan that indicated that by 2019, there will more than 6 billion devices supporting WebRTC.

"However, until now video collaboration tools haven't met the needs of the growing number of organizations migrating to cloud-based apps," Malloy said in a statement. "CIOs can now scale video—and empower employees to freely reach all internal and external stakeholders—without increasing complexity or demands on infrastructure and support."

The Lifesize Cloud Web App also will expand the company's reach into the education market. Noting numbers from Gartner that indicate about 72 percent of Chromebook sales in 2014 went to the education sector, officials said the offering gives teachers a simple way to run video conferences without needing proprietary technology and complicated setups.

In addition to the new cloud app, Lifesize also is now offering a voice- and content-only Web conferencing mode, which eliminates the need for customers to use third-party Web conferencing tools and enables them to collaborate with up to 40 other people without having to launch another application.