Logitech and Jabra

by Dave Michels
About 19 months ago, Logitech acquired LifeSize. That seemed strange at the time, as Logitech purveys fine mice and keyboards, not telepresence solutions. But perhaps I was too quick to judge. The company has been upping its UC story and just announced a partnership with Jabra. More on that below.

I must say I do like my keyboard and mouse. Evidently they make a few other things too. They are a leader in webcams which are a good business to be in these days. Frost recently reported that Videoconferencing and telepresence endpoints grew 17.8 percent year over year, and Infonetics recently predicted videoconferencing spending is to double by 2015.

Logitech did power the video calling feature of Microsoft’s MSN until last April. That service will likely now be integrated with Skype – but Logitech’s LifeSize division is the only room system vendor to have integrated with Skype. The company has a thriving webcam business, and now a partnership with Jabra.

Jabra makes both headsets and USB audio devices. The new relationship will grow to include joint marketing and even R&D; efforts providing Logitech a more complete UC story, particularly at the desktop. Logitech wil begin selling Jabra products next month under the brand “Logitech powered by Jabra.” The first three products will be a USB speaker, a DECT and a bluetooth headset. All will be certified to work with technologies from Avaya, Microsoft, Cisco and Polycom.

Logitech has a few more interesting clubs in its bag. Last October the company announced a thin client solution. The announcement brings high-definition (HD) video communications to virtual desktops. The solution involves a Logitech webcam with H.264 onboard encoding. Positioning Logitech for the upcoming wave of VDI desktops.

Last July, Logitech acquired Paradial, a firm that specializes in firewall and NAT traversal. This pesky area poses a significant barrier to widespread Internet video adoption. Paradial products were available through LifeSize before, but now Logitech can tightly integrate the technology into its video products directly – still to come.

Logitech appears ready to take on the UC space with video and UC peripherials. Oddly, there are no phones in the line-up. I asked Eric Kintz, the GM of Logitech’s new Business division and Michael Helbrecht, VP of Product Marketing, about this and they are convinced softphones are the future. I beg to differ.

Logitech powered by Jabra USB devices will be compatible with “technologies” from Avaya, Microsoft, Cisco and Polycom – but every major maker of enterprise telephony (except Microsoft) supports SIP endpoints. Softphones are an important and growing part of the solution, as are hard phones.

The big phone makers – Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, SEN, ShoreTel are all shifting more and more being software focused firms. As propritary solutions fade, so do the economies of scale of producing them. Mass market SIP phone makers server a much broader market. Cisco, mostly by happenstance, seems to be gaining some traction in 3rd party hosted space – but Polycom, Aastra, and Snom seem to be the kings of quality SIP phones. Logitech appears to be ignoring an opportunity to complete its endpoint story with desktop phones – potentially video enabled deskphones. Logitech has channels into the enterprise. Perhaps Logitech could be the outsider that re-invents the phone.  

Snom might be a good acquisition candidate for Logitech. Snom has a SIP phone product line, could use some assistance with enterprise penetration, and even managed to get their products to work with Microsoft Lync. It fills a nice hole for Logitech and improves their endpoint UC story.