Mitel Does 180 with New 360


I posted a more detailed explanation of the Mitel 360 Collaboration Point on NoJitter, but a few additional thoughts.

  1. Mitel has not made stand alone IP saucers before. Instead, the company had positioned its saucers as an add-on to its IP phones. It’s kind of a clever strategy as most conference rooms end up having two phones (a normal one and a saucer). Mitel’s approach provides a familiar desktop phone for normal use – and a high-end noise canceling “beam forming” saucer as an accessory. Only requires 1 IP license or “port.”
  2. All Mitel IP endpoints had supported MiNet – Mitel’s proprietary signaling. Mitel supports SIP, but goes to market with MiNet first. Even its hosted solution uses this feature rich protocol. Most hosted SIP solutions use generic SIP, so can only offer basic dial tone without advanced phonetop features.  

For these two reasons, Mitel has done a 180 with its new UC360  as it is a SIP only endpoint as well as a stand alone conference saucer.

I am not certain, in its present form and current price, that this device will be attractive beyond Mitel customers. However, I do think the concept has legs. The first gen price is set at an MSRP of $1995. So I will guess that the dealer cost is around $1200-$1500. With some volume and engineering improvements they should be able to get that price down. If Mitel then sells the device via dotcom distribution (see The Incredible Shrinking Channel), it could have a future end-user price near or less than $1000. That’s compelling if the end user sees the video capability as a valuable feature.

The big thing that may prevent them from seeing value is the lack of a video-in port. I’m not sure what they were thinking with this ‘load a file’ approach. It would be much better if users could simply connect a laptop to 1) share any content 2) show/point with the mouse 3) update content while collaborating (it’s hardly a collaboration point if the document is static). I have not seen the RDP implementation, but that seems far more complicated for the user than connecting a cable to a computer.

Another problem with the load the file format is format fidelity. The saucer doesn’t actually us MS Office to view the files, but an Android translating application. I’ve had enough experience with this that I know complex files rarely work – esp PowerPoints. Plus all those situations where collaboration needs to occur over something other than an MS Office document – such as a screen of a business application. The quick and smart answer is to share the screen by adding an HDMI-in or even a VGA-in on the side of the Collaboration Point. With a lower price via open distribution and a video-in port this device could really take-off.

I like the concept, but I am not sold on the first iteration. The concept makes a lot of sense.

What’s a bit surprising is this device came from Mitel. There’s the issues above about it being a very different M.O. than Mitel, but it just seems a more natural extension to video collaboration from a vendor like Polycom, Vidyo, or LifeSize. Polycom interrupted (disrupted?) the endpoint market before with its original speaker saucer.  The company maintains a high-end reputation for both audio and video conferencing solutions sold frequently into accounts using call managers from all major vendors. Mitel channels will have heavy lifting to get into accounts with competitive call managers. I don’t fault Mitel – go for it – just surprised a device like this came from them.

Or is this another sign of disruption – a lower price point that disrupts existing video collaboration models – even with only four ports, we are talking about a four port video bridge for less than $2k.

I’ve written several posts on the future of the endpoint – and concluded that endpoints are far form dead, but in need of re-invention. This is the closest thing I’ve seen to re-invention. Actually, with a handset, headset, and video-in port, I could see this on my desk. I don’t know about the roadmap, but do know that SIP URI dialing and some wireless capabilities (wireless hardware already inside the device) are coming.

Dave Michels