For much of Polycom’s quarter century of existence, two constants for the company have been its conference phones and its partnership with Microsoft.
The company has used its conference phones as the foundation of its MSR line of systems to run Microsoft’s Skype video communications technology, and has integrated Skype for Business and Office 365 into its line of audio and video conferencing systems.
Now Polycom will do the same with Microsoft’s Teams collaboration platform that the giant software maker introduced less than a year ago to take on Slack and similar offerings. The companies announced the tighter partnership Sept. 26 during the second day of Microsoft’s Ignite 2017 conference in Orlando, Fla.
Polycom also announced that the next generation of its MSR Series, which combine the company’s hardware and Microsoft’s Skype for Business technology.
The announcements are a continuation of the longstanding partnership with Microsoft, according to Polycom CEO Mary McDowell.
“As we have done for nearly 15 years, Polycom will support Microsoft customers in all stages of their collaboration journey, whether it’s Skype for Business, Office 365, or now Microsoft Teams,” McDowell said in a statement.
Microsoft is making a significant push with Teams and will reportedly replace Skye for Business with the new platform. Polycom will lend its technologies to Microsoft’s collaboration ambitions.
A week ago, company officials introduced Polycom’s latest systems not only for midsize and large conference rooms, but also for smaller huddle rooms aimed at a handful of participants.
Two of the phones include the three-legged shape that has defined Polycom’s conference phones, and all are designed to enhance the audio experience for the users, according to company officials.
The new systems include the MSR 100 that will use Polycom’s VoxBox phone system for huddle rooms, while the Trio 8800 for larger rooms will be included in the MSR 300 and the Trio 8500 (pictured) will be in the MSR 200 for midsize rooms.
The systems use the Skype for Business interface and leverage a range of Polycom technologies, including the EagleEye camera, CX5100 conference station and the RealPresence Medialign video conferencing kit. The new MSR systems will be available in the fourth quarter.
Polycom’s new and enhanced conference phones come as the vendor celebrates the 25th anniversary of the introduction of its first three-legged phone, which helped launch the company. They also come a year after Polycom was bought by private equity firm Siris Capital for $2 billion, taken private and put under new leadership.
In a post on the No Jitter blog site, Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, wrote that after the Siris Capital buyout, Polycom defined a new business strategy that de-emphasized its infrastructure business and focused more attention on its endpoints.
“This has caused some confusion and there are many rumors that Polycom is getting out of infrastructure altogether,” Kerravala wrote, adding, “That's not the case, but there's certainly more focus on endpoints as of late.”
The analyst pointed out while more people are working remotely, the worker agility required by the digital transformation of businesses means that demand for meeting spaces in the office is growing. It’s also changing, as these more agile groups tend to meet quickly and then move on.
Chris Thorson, senior director of marketing at communications at Polycom, told eWEEK that despite how “old school” conference phones may be, the market has grown rapidly over the past several years.
Modern offices tend to be more open with fewer private offices, “but eventually people need a place to talk.” When they do, strong audio quality is critical, as is the assurance that the connection will not be interrupted. Thorson said mobile phones can’t always guarantee either.
“From a pure audio perspective, if you don’t have [a solid connection], you don’t have a conversation,” he said.
With the Trio 8800, conference participants can connect using their Apple AirPlay or Miracast devices. Later this year Polycom will add support for enterprise-class motorized pan-tilt-zoom cameras for a better experience in larger conference rooms.
The Trio 8500 is aimed at mid-size conference rooms and comes with such features as high-definition audio quality, Polycom’s NoiseBlock technology, a full-color touchscreen and Microsoft Exchange calendar integration. The vendor will add video and content sharing to the system in the fourth quarter.
Both support multi-line registration, which enables businesses to easily migrate between open Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Skype for Business environment. They also work with other cloud-based platforms, including Cisco Systems, Avaya, BlueJeans Network and Zoom.
Polycom’s VoxBox is an ultra-compact speaker phone with the company’s HD Voice technology and is aimed at small team spaces such as huddle rooms. It delivers Polycom’s HD Voice technology and will be available in select areas in the fourth quarter.