When Microsoft introduced its Roundtable phone 2007, it was pretty clear to me that they had a cool device on their hands. The phone has a ring of video cameras on a small turret. It is meant ti sit in a conference room, where it offers a 360-degree view of meeting participants. The phone uses directional technology to cut in real-time to whoever is speaking in a meeting.
I shot this demo of the phone at the Microsoft booth at VoiceCon Orlando 2008.
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The only aspect of the Roundtable phone that troubled me was Microsoft. It’s a software company, not a hardware company. It does Windows and lets others build the PCs. It does Windows Mobile and lets others do the smartphone. And when Microsoft does venture into hardware, it tends to do it in the consumer market, and with mixed results (see Zune, XBox). So it wasn’t clear to me why Microsoft was trying to get into this business.
Granted, the Roundtable integrates with Office Communications Server, but every phone equipment vendor under the sun is looking to integrate with OCS these days. Walk the exhibitor’s hall at this year’s VoiceCon and see that for yourself.
Apparently Microsoft agrees that it’s not the ideal vendor for a product like Roundtable. It announced at VoiceCon this week that it is transferring the Roundtable phone to Polycom, which will become the sole distributor of the device. Polycom is re-branding Roundtable as the CX5000, which integrates it into Polycom’s existing line of conference phone products. Microsoft will continue to manufacture the device, but as far as I can tell, this phone is now going to market as a Polycom product. Microsoft will continue to support customers who bought the device through it, but all subsequent support will be provided by Polycom.
According to Tim Yankey, director of voice product marketing at Polycom, said Microsoft will stop selling Roundtable on April 13 and hand over sales, marketing and distribution to Polycom. The sales price under Polycom will be $4300.
Although Microsoft will continue to manufacture the device, Yankey told me that Polycom has the right to make changes and additions to the phone in the future.
Polycom also announced at VoiceCon that it will begin offering 1080p and 720p resolution in its high definition telepresence systems. This is the broadcast quality video that competitors such as Tandberg and Cisco already offer in their telepresence systems.