When Tandberg, then Polycom’s biggest competitor, was acquired by Cisco back in October, 2009, and Logitech acquired LifeSize just three weeks later, Polycom emerged from the consolidation chaos as the last pure-play UC, video and voice provider standing. Polycom has since parlayed an ominous position – one mired in industry-wide speculation about an imminent takeover – into an impressive success story both for Polycom and for the enterprise video and unified communications market. With Microsoft’s recent acquisition Skype, Polycom is again challenged to turn uncertainty into opportunity, and few companies are better matched for the challenge.
Cisco’s takeover of Tandberg left Polycom with two choices: succumb to takeover or takeover the unified communications’ industry – more specifically Cisco’s long-held grip on the market share. Polycom chose the latter, structuring an aggressive campaign to gain market share over Cisco while bringing to fruition the company’s UC Everywhere vision. Today Polycom has an estimated 40% share of the video conferencing market, backed by industry consensus that Polycom is winning the market share over Cisco.
The start of the Polycom revolution
Polycom enlisted a visionary leader to head up the company’s aggressive new strategy, the company’s own EVP of Global Field Operations, Andrew Miller. With experience as a former executive with both Cisco and Tandberg and an impressive 28-year career in technology and sales, Miller was tailor-made to spearhead Polycom’s aggressive strategy as CEO.
With a know-thy-enemy tactical recruiting strategy, Miller made quick work of pulling together a formidable executive management team, appointing former Cisco powerhouse, Joseph Burton, as Polycom’s senior vice president, chief strategist and CTO, along with other notable hires from Tandberg, Motorola, Oracle and Xerox. The company recently announced new additions to its executive line up to help push Polycom’s global growth initiative.
Under new leadership, Polycom has relentlessly pursued its tried-and-true partnership model in a two-fold effort to both bolster its competitive positioning against Cisco, and to build its product portfolio through a mix of acquisition and organic growth.
Polycom staying true to interoperability, product development, cloud and mobile promises
Polycom’s reliance on partnerships – including Microsoft, BroadSoft, Avaya, Siemens, HP, IBM, Juniper Networks, McAfee, Riverbed Technology – can be a tenuous strategy to manage. One on side, partnerships with top-tier vendors is a way to fast track enterprise sales, but partners can and do opt to make similar products that compete with partner products. Something Microsoft, Polycom’s closet partner, has been guilty of in the past.
Though Polycom’s partnership program has significantly contributed to the company’s success, particularly in its competitive campaign against Cisco, Polycom isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket. The company has a renewed focused on product development.
In April alone, the company announced three new telepresence solutions, including its EagleEye Director, HDX 4500 desktop telepresence solution, and Telepresence m100. Polycom also acquired Accordent Technologies in March.
Polycom’s EagleEye Director uses voice triangulation, face-finding technology, and a dual-camera tracking system to deliver a personalized one-to-many telepresence experience in any conference room by ensuring the speaking party is always highlighted (zoomed in and centered).
The company also added the HDX 4500 desktop telepresence solution to its HDX portfolio. Billed as an all-in-one UC solution, the standards-based HDX 4500 brings HD video and audio conferencing to the executive desktop at up to 50 percent less bandwidth than similar solutions (read Cisco’s TelePresence).
On the mobile side, Polycom’s Telepresence m100 is a portable PC-based software application that allows users to share content in a video conference and connect to any standards-based telepresence solution and multiple device types including Android tablets.
Polycom’s standards-based solutions provide interoperability and native integration with existing platforms including Microsoft’s SharePoint and Lync, IBM’s Sametime, and applications from multiple vendors. Polycom solutions are also interoperable with some Cisco solutions via Cisco’s Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP). Polycom was among the first vendors to adopt TIP after the EU forced Cisco to use the protocol as a condition of the Tandberg deal.
Polycom’s recent acquisition of Accordent Technologies expands the company’s portfolio to include video content management and delivery technologies. With the Accordent platform, Polycom customers can access all major video use cases including live studio webcasts, automated rich media webcasting from meetings or classrooms, streaming extensions to video conferences, or user-generated content from the desktop.
In conjunction with Polycom’s acquisition of Accordent Technologies, the company also announced a new video asset management solution, Polycom Accordent Media Services, powered by Microsoft’s cloud services platform. With Polycom Accordent Media Services, companies can set up set up a searchable video content management system for their video assets. The secure, searchable video data base is stored in the cloud and can manage anything from major meeting videos to calls between desk phone users.
Polycom’s future in the Microsoft-Skype deal
Miller, not surprisingly, is optimistic about the Microsoft Skype deal. In a letter to customers, Miller wrote, “We believe that Polycom and Microsoft – incorporating Skype – will continue to be uniquely positioned to jointly deliver what our customers want: open standards-based communications systems that provide investment protection and interoperability in multi-platform UC environments.” He added that this merger will also further isolate Cisco as a closed “island” of technologies.
How Microsoft positions Skype within the Microsoft ecosystem will ultimately determine where Polycom lands after the dust settles. If Microsoft is able to transition Skype (via Lync integration) as an enterprise-quality solution, Polycom’s could have cause for concern. And as consumer-based collaborative solutions continue to flood the enterprise, interest in expensive room-based video conferencing systems or on-site solutions may wane. Regardless, according to Miller, the acquisition will help drive momentum in the video collaboration space, and more customers is a good thing for a well-positioned, agile company like Polycom. Companies like Avaya, Mitel and NEC are more likely to feel the sting of the deal.
To hear Polycom’s latest plans in its UC Everywhere initiative, tune into a live webcast and engage directly with Andy Miller and top cloud and mobility industry leaders on June 1st from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. PDT. Innovation Driving UC Everywhere: From Mobile to the Cloud and Beyond is a live, interactive webcast covering new UC announcements and the company’s plan for taking its UC Everywhere strategy across the cloud.