Polycom Intros New 360-Degree Video Systems for Microsoft Lync

The CX5100 and CX5500 solutions are the latest additions to Polycom’s growing portfolio of offerings optimized for Microsoft’s Lync.

Polycom is rolling out its latest 360-degree video collaboration systems that are built to run with Microsoft's Lync unified communications solution.

Polycom officials unveiled the CX5500 and CX5100 Unified Conference Stations July 8 at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, unveiling the latest of more than 40 solutions that work with Lync 2010 or 2013 that the company has rolled out since Polycom three years ago first began offering systems that support Lync.

Also at the show, Polycom officials announced that its full portfolio of VVX Business Media Phones has received Lync 2013 qualification.

Microsoft with Lync competes with the likes of Cisco Systems and Avaya in trying to offer the most complete unified communications (UC) solutions. Polycom officials have thrown their support behind Lync, and Ted Colton, group vice president of strategic alliances for Polycom, said it is paying off.

Given the broad portfolio of solutions that interoperate or are optimized to work with Lync, when Lync users are looking for video conferencing systems, "most choose Polycom," Colton told eWEEK.

Most recently, at the Enterprise Connect 2013 show in March, Polycom announced a new software extension in its RealPresence platform that later this year will bring greater integration between Lync 2013 and Polycom's video collaboration and content-sharing products.

With the CX5500 and CX5100 Unified Conference Stations, Polycom is offering a successor to the current CX5000. The new systems offer the same around-the-table, 360-degree view of participants, but offer twice the high-definition video image quality, twice the frame rate, more life-like motion handling and the company's HD Voice technology for the best audio.

The audio is important, Colton said.

"A view is great, but if [a video conferencing system] doesn't have really good audio, it doesn't work," he said.

Colton said the system has five cameras, and that Polycom's software stitches the images together to give users on other Lync-based conference systems or who are using desktops, notebooks or tablets a complete view of everyone in the meeting. The images are shown across the bottom third of the screen, with the rest of the screen taken by the person who is talking.

The CX5500 or CX5100 are placed in the center of a meeting room table, and both deliver 1080p active speaker video. It tracks the flow of conversations at 30 frames per second.

In addition, Colton said Polycom worked to make launching or joining directly from the Lync user environment easy by connecting the systems to a computer from a USB that is running Lync, he said. In addition, the CX5500 also can be used as a full-feature Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) conference phone, which enables organizations to save money by ensuring they don't have to buy both a video collaboration unit and a separate conference phone.

Colton said making the system easy to use was important. Organizations see the benefits of UC and video conferencing, but the challenges to getting them widely adopted in the enterprise include some employees being intimidated by the new technology. Making the systems easier to use will help accelerate greater acceptance in the enterprise, he said.

"People are beginning to understand [how video conferencing systems operate], and people are beginning to adopt it," Colton said.

Polycom's UC Software v. 5.0 for its VVX Business Media Phones in Lync environments offer improved call management and the ability to search address book contacts.

The CX5100 Unified Conference Station will be available in September, and the CX5500 will come out in the fourth quarter. Lync users will be able to upgrade to Polycom's UC Software v. 5.0 in August.