InfoComm, Where the Video Vendors Talk

by Dave Michels

The 800 lbs gorilla in Telepresence is Cisco/Tandberg, and the rest of the industry are teaming up against the giant. Polycom, HP, Microsoft, and Juniper seem to be united in their anti-Cisco positioning. At a recent Polycom conference, Gurdeep Singh Pall of Microsoft said ‘History has shown that a single legged stool is not stable’ (paraphrased, not a direct quote) and suggested that Polycom, Microsoft, and HP create three strong legs.

Was “stool” really the right metaphor to use?

The question is can Polycom sustain its amazing growth rate? Currently trading at a 52 week high. They are promising even more big news at InfoComm (June 15). Polycom keeps issuing announcements including four last week.

What kind of news? I expect some unexpected news, but we can guess some of the themes: It seems you just aren’t cool if you don’t have a video conferencing studio in your pocket. Mobile aside, video is bustin out of the elaborate video conference room systems – so desktop themes are also going to be important. Also, prices are still dropping, expect some radical new price/performance metrics. SVC has to be big this year as well.

The fact is video is rapidly become (becoming?) pervasive. Not just video conferencing, but document sharing/collaboration, video steaming (YouTube and Netflix), and video surveillance. My grandmother would say, “Oy the network!” There will be some network news too – goodbye VLANs and hello session oriented quality of service.

The video conferencing players keep shifting – in addition to the above firms; Vidyo, Radvision, and LifeSize are fighting for proper lighting. Vidyo and Radvision have been working the singles scenes – perhaps an engagement will be announced?

LifeSize was acquired by Logitech 18 months ago, probably perfect timing. The parent is known for its webcams, and video calling/MSN service, and now claims they to be the only video player with a strong partnership with both Microsoft and Skype. They also sorta partner with Avaya. About a year ago, Logitech acquired ParaDial giving the firm additional savvy with firewall and NAT navigation. Though this play hasn’t revealed itself yet.

Radvision is the only major player supporting standards based video solutions along with SVC going into the conference. SVC is clearly the next generation technology – a subject of another blog post. Up until SVC, video conferencing technologies were optimized for deterministic isochronous expensive dedicated networks. SVC is designed to perform well in IP networks that occasionally lose packets.The user experience is huge, and there is no doubt SVC will be the next big thing in video.

Vidyo is a bit ahead of itself. The company has been winning lots of attention and awards with its SVC based solutions, but neglects the non SVC installed base of some 1.5 million endpoints. Is it fair to call non SVC 264 codecs legacy? very soon, maybe next week. Last month, Vidyo picked up its third Best of Interop award for its new VidyoMobile product.

Polycom is the 600 lbs Gorilla and appears to be rapidly gaining weight and making lots of new friends. Picking up Halo last week from HP was minor news compared to locking up HP as an exclusive video customer and Polycom reseller. HP also resells Vidyo – or at least did. No official details since the Polycom news about what happens to that relationship.

Infocomm is the big show for video, so expect lots of news next week. Cisco and Polycom will likely dominate the coverage, they are both major sponsors of the event. I can’t recall a period where video was so hot. It isn’t just equipment either. The video services such as AOL/iChat, Apple’s FaceTime, Skype, and Google are also working to change the picture too.

Polycom’s “Ground Breaking News”: BFD