Polycom's Big Week

Carl Weinschenk

It was quite a week for videoconferencing vendor Polycom, which announced the acquisition of HP's Visual Collaboration Business and launched the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC).

CBR Online says that the OVCC is aimed at pushing the practical use of video across geographic and corporate boundaries:

Slide Show

Videoconferencing Adoption and ROI

While videoconferencing can help reduce operating costs and improve decision making, just half of businesses actually use it.

Called the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) it will provide what Polycom calls a, "global standards-based, multi-vendor, multi-network visual communication exchange", meaning companies will be able to use products from wide range of suppliers without being locked in to that company's platform. The group will support telepresence and room-based systems as well as desktop and mobile platforms.

The story says that the OVCC initially will extend across 2 million standards-based video systems and eventually to non-standard systems, though it doesn't say precisely how this will be done. The initial lineup of service providers is formidable. They are, according to the story, Airtel, AT&T, BCS Global, BT Conferencing, Cable & Wireless Worldwide, Global Crossing, Glowpoint, iFormata, Masergy, Orange Business Services, PCCW Global, Telefonica, Telstra and Verizon.

The second move was Polycom's acquistion of HP's Visual Collaboration business, including Halo products and managed services, for $89 million. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter, according to the release. The two companies are bound to become quite familiar with each other:

In conjunction with this acquisition, HP and Polycom have agreed to establish a strategic relationship in which Polycom will serve as an exclusive partner to HP for telepresence and certain video UC solutions, including both resale and internal HP deployments. The two companies have also agreed to make available Polycom's video applications for HP's WebOS platform.

Dave Michels, who writes about these issues in multiple places - including Pin Drop Soup - splashes a bit of cold water on the importance of these news items. HP's Halo line, he suggests, was not successful and a "weaker technology" than Polycom's. The advantage for Polycom is an alliance with the bigger and higher profile company, which is nice for the firm but hardly an industry game-changer. He added that the alliance is coming at a steep price.

OVCC's mandate - to make videoconferencing as interoperable as email or voice services - is vital. However, Michels downplays this particular initiative because Polycom is the only vendor in the mix. It will be more meaningful when other equipment-makers - including smartphone and tablet vendors in addition to Polycom's direct competitors - agree to work with the impressive list of service providers OVCC already has amassed.

An issue that hasn't been explored yet is the relationship between OVCC and the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (UCIF). The consortium, at least on the surface, seems to share some of its goals. Will there be cooperation or, at the end of the day, will there by conflict between UCIF - of which Polycom is a founding member - and OVCC?

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