Logitech Turns Its Business Focus to UC

The company sees opportunity in selling products that make unified communications easier to use.

Logitech officials, who two years ago expanded their focus beyond consumer products when they created a unit focused on businesses, are looking to leverage what they see as a significant opportunity in the unified communications market.

Over the past few months, Logitech has begun shipping a number of products aimed at filling what Mike Langberg, senior public relations manager for the company, called "the last inch to unified communications"—the space between the endpoint and the user.

Vendors like Cisco Systems, Microsoft, ShoreTel and Avaya are rolling out a range of hardware and software products that bring unified communications (UC) capabilities to a user's desktop and laptop. Logitech's goal is to offer products—from headphones to keyboards to mice—that make those UC platforms easier to use, Langberg told eWEEK.

"To us, unified communications look like a big transition … both to our company and to the enterprise customers we're addressing," he said.

Vendors are offering solutions that bring everything from voice and presence to instant messaging and—increasingly—video under one umbrella, and offering them in a wide range of platforms, from desktop PCs to mobile devices. Where the Internet, voice and video were all housed in individual silos, those capabilities are now on a user's computing device.

"It's a very disruptive change because it's all coming through one wire," Langberg said.

Businesses see UC helping improve worker productivity, increase collaboration among employees, partners and customers, and drive down expenses, such as travel costs.

"We're really excited about this business. It's early days in the onset of UC into the big enterprise players, but it's going to be an incredibly exciting market," Logitech President and CEO Bracken Darrell told analysts during a conference call in April to talk about the company's quarterly financial numbers. "It's got very big potential for us. As I said, it's very early days and I don't know if it will take five years or 10 years to really take hold across all of the big enterprises, but we all know it is coming."

Logitech engineers are working closely with Cisco and Microsoft to develop products that can work with their respective UC platforms, Darrell said.

"We're partnering directly with Cisco and with Microsoft for … Jabber and Lync to sell into these enterprise customers," he said. "And our first sales are coming in right now. The nice thing is—you probably realize about this whole UC business—is that it … generally pulls a Webcam, a keyboard, a headset and often even a mouse."

That is where Logitech is aiming. Over the past few months, the company has announced a series of products aimed at the UC market. In March, the company began selling its USB headset H650e that offers a flexible microphone boom, a no-tangle cable and an LED indicator light to let people know when a user is on a call. This month the company will start selling its Webcam C930e, which can zoom, pan and tilt and supports H.264 SVC, which moves the video encoding from the PC and into the camera.

Logitech also is selling its UC Solution for Cisco 725-C, a combination keyboard, mouse and Webcam designed specifically for Cisco Jabber environments, Langberg said. The keyboard includes nine dedicated keys for UC for such functions as call answer and hang-up, volume, audio and video mute, audio selection for headset, handset or speaker, and voice mail messages. There also is an LCD call information display that shows such information as caller ID, date and time.

The goal was to make the functions easy to see and reach on the keyboard, rather than having to go into the software display on the screen, he said. They also light up when in use—the voice message lights up red when there are messages, and the call answer button shines green when a user is on the call, for example.