On Monday morning, Polycom invited a few hundred of their closest friends to New York to open the NASDAQ stock market. Then, they revealed a new set of products demonstrating their commitment to put video into the routine of daily working life for information workers.  I was one of those friends who had the unique opportunity to (as the CIO of one of Polycom's customer’s quipped) “make my job relevant to my teenage children,” by having my face on the widescreen in Times Square.  But my kids don’t read my blog, so the important thing for the readers is taking a look at what Polycom said, and what it means.

Polycom discussed four themes through the day – their commitment to:

  • Deliver a superior user experience. A new UI design and the promise to deliver that UI to all their products, enabling more intuitive and consistent access to all Polycom communications capabilities – in rooms, on PCs, and even from smartphones and tablets. The new UI looks slick and the ability to use that, or a Microsoft Lync client, to access the broad range of Polycom services is a major step in delivering a useful and usable collaboration tool.  The promise to deliver the UI as a software upgrade means that even existing Polycom customers will be able to enjoy the experience. Having recently visited Polycom's experience center at their new headquarters in San Jose, I will vouch for the intuitive, personal feeling of working a pure "new Polycom" environment.
  • Embrace SVC and other software standard. Other video vendors will say "about time," and with respect to H.264 SVC, they are right. Polycom can now transcode and connect an unparalleled number of video codecs – from standards-based connections like H.264 AVC (and now SVC) through proposed standards like RTV and TIP directly from the Polycom Real Presence Platform.  This commitment to open standard software makes it possible for Polycom to start deploying their solutions onto industry standard computing platforms – simultaneously reducing the TCO and increasing the capacity for their customers.
  • Deliver video to the mid-market. Polycom made clear which endpoints were best suited to the generally smaller spaces available in mid-market firms, launched a financing program to ease the cost to deploy video, and launched a video bridging appliance (the Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server 800s) sized to meet the needs of the mid-market. Polycom is beginning to think more clearly about the journey that any business must take to adopt video – and working to make it easier.
  • Grow a cloud based video ecosystem with their partners. While many video vendors have launched a cloud-based service to sell video service directly to end users, Polycom went out of their way to reiterate their commitment to channel delivery of their cloud-based video service, RealPresence CloudAXIS.  Outsiders join a RealPresence CloudAXIS session via a plain browser, the session inherits existing SIP-based security and network optimization, the service federates presence and addressing information from consumer social networks like Skype, Facebook, and GoogleTalk, and collaboration tools like the Polycom UC Board or Microsoft LiveMeeting are accessible – all advantage over other services that require a client or browser plug-in and deliver only limited collaboration capabilities.

So, what does all this mean? It means that Polycom:

  • Is moving their business from hardware to software.  Video solutions based on software and services will be able to deliver flexible, clearer, and more productive UC&C to market.
  • Is serious about being the video enabled cockpit for UC&C.  This cockpit will be available to information worker wherever they work, via video rooms, video endpoints, and software that runs on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Polycom discussed their infrastructure products primarily in terms of benefits for systems owners and information workers who insert clearer video-based communications into their existing collaboration architectures and processes. 
  • Is committed to their customers’ success.  From healthcare to professional services to manufacturing, Polycom customers were happy to talk about their deployments and the business benefits Polycom is delivering.
  • Is committed to their Microsoft relationship. Polycom reiterated their commitment to the relationship as long as it delivers value for buyers and users.  I did not see a Microsoft person at the event once, leaving it to Polycom employees to describe the increased reliability of joint solutions when the companies engage in deep, joint product and business development.
  • Believes cloud-based video is real. At Forrester, we see a majority of buyers interested in video as a service and UC as a service – and Polycom is delivering cloud-ready infrastructure. Working through consortia like the Open Video Communications Consortium (OVCC), Polycom is also actively seeking to make business models work for buyers and sellers.
  • Is building interop where others have not. Polycom continues to work to eliminate video islands – they have adopted standards proposed by Cisco, Microsoft, and others.  Why?  See No. 3 above: they are committed to their customers’ success – working to deliver the value of video communications via open interoperability across firms, networks, vendors, and standards

Did Polycom change the world on Monday?  Maybe not, but they are developing solutions to enable change so that a committed ecosystem can.  They certainly put the market on notice that they are  ready and anxious for change –who will join them?