Videoconferencing Wars: Polycom Brings Its Allies.

Corporate network bandwidth requirements are exploding; buyers tell us their needs are growing by 30-60% a year – and video is the culprit. 

Picture6

And while network managers can clamp down on employees’ watching YouTube to regain some bandwidth, real, productive business usage of video is growing too – virtual meetings, internal training, even customer visits via videoconferencing from desktop to HD room settings. (Check out Principal Analyst’s Henry Dewing’s "A Picture is worth a 1000 words: Biz Video Growth").

Which vendors win as VC adoption soars – a slam dunk for Cisco+Tandberg? Not so fast. We recently spent a day with Polycom which is spearheading an ‘open-collaboration’ ecosystem, being smart about partnering with everyone who is not Cisco, and executing on a holistic strategy across product innovation, distribution, and services – backed up with investment.

We expect that the videoconferencing market will quickly boil down to Polycom +Everyone vs. Cisco. And Polycom’s partner strategy brings some quick advantages. Its approach:

  • Catapults Polycom into the managed services market where they have been absent, with carrier-friendly partners Juniper and Broadsoft.
  • Promises pervasive channel presence via HP, Cisco’s biggest competitor. HP must resolve a pending conflict between its Halo system and Polycom’s.
  • Integrates (at least soon) into non-Cisco collaboration solutions, including those from Microsoft, IBM, Siemens and Avaya.

This strategy is promising, but as always, the devil’s in the execution details:

  • Winning mindshare with the (non-exclusive) channel. Ultimately, the battle for videoconferencing customers will be fought in the channel. How to win?  Not just by competing on multi-vendor, standards-based collaboration (Cisco will get there too), but by pushing product innovation further and faster with software features like video search that help embed video into business processes.
  • Becoming a true priority for the partners.  HP and Microsoft are mammoths that have befriended Polycom since they want to distance themselves from Cisco. But we wonder how seriously – and for how long – will HP and Microsoft treat the Polycom partnership?

We think Polycom and its allies will have a fighting chance.  What’s your take?