Polycom’s “Ground Breaking News”: BFD.

by Dave Michels

For weeks Polycom has been teasing me with “ground breaking” news to come on June 1. If you are going to tease, you better deliver. Announcements and press releases are expected – normal and routine. “Ground Breaking” was meant to imply something beyond that… FAIL.

There were three major pieces to today’s news:

1) Polycom bought HP’s Halo for $89 million. This was HP’s proprietary telepresence play – equipment that typically sold for half a million dollars. Did I say “typically sold”? Scratch that. It was HP’s attempt at telepresence which didn’t sell. That is until today. What Polycom really bought was an alliance – competitors don’t align well, so HP evidently agreed to exit the market and sell Polycom. Both companies will make more money on future sales – but $89 million to acquire weaker technology than you already own seems a bit steep. (Although $8.5B for a video company (Skye) that loses $7M a year makes this look like a bargain). 

2) Polycom announces (again) Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC) described as “new levels of interoperability that will soon make enterprise-quality video calls as easy to make as a voice call on your mobile phone.” Interop is very important – but the problem is that this is currently interop between  Polycom devices. It is really about call setup. The new alliance is Polycom and a slew of carriers that now agree how to connect Polycom devices. The hope is more vendors will join the agreed parameters that Polycom “initiated” Until I see Cisco, LifeSize, Radvision, (Avaya), or even smart phones and tablet makers on the list, I think “interop” is a bit strong – but to be fair, all ground breaking ideas start small. 

3) Polycom announces native integration with Microsoft Lync. Considering these companies have been tight partners for a long time  and that Polycom’s CEO Andy Miller was actually at the Lync Launch – the only question is ‘what took so long?’. Worse, the announcement is only an intent (‘Rally’ is the code name) – when it ships or what it is called is some other future announcement. 

Polycom is a great company, a true market leader. They actually do lots of things that are ground breaking, just not today.