Logitech spends a lot of time telling the market about its agnostic approach when it comes to videoconferencing. The company, which makes a host of videoconferencing hardware aimed across the spectrum from solo meetings through to large group events, is decidedly agnostic when it comes to software. Logitech proudly supports a plethora of different videoconferencing platforms, from Skype to Zoom, from Join.me to Google Hangouts
But while this agnostic approach means that Logitech can support customers using a host of different solutions, it also introduces some issues. As a third party hardware supplier, Logitech can't control the experience customers will see beyond the hardware. As a standalone solution, it also doesn't have an answer for organizations that want a complete videoconferencing solution, one that doesn't require them to use their own devices.
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While bring your own device (BYOD) is a preferred approach for many smaller organizations, there are still a number of companies who want a complete videoconferencing solution that is independent of a particular laptop or other device. This has traditionally been the value proposition of standalone VC tools from companies such as Polycom.
Logitech and Intel are looking to change that today with the release of the ConferenceCam Kit. The unit is a combination of Logitech's ConferenceCam camera/speaker combination, and Intel's NUC, a self-contained micro-computer that fulfills the reaming hardware requirements left out by Logitech's offerings. Alongside the hardware elements, the companies are bundling Intel's Unite application into the mix. The idea of the tie-up is to reduce the complexity for organizations wanting self-contained VC tools, but without the cost of traditional aggregated devices.
“We have found that a significant number of Logitech ConferenceCams are attached to dedicated computers in meeting rooms, but purchasing, configuring and deploying a dedicated video conference system in meeting spaces can be expensive, and it’s hard for our customers to know what is compatible,” said Scott Wharton, general manager of the Logitech video collaboration group. “Logitech and Intel have taken the guesswork out of the equation. We researched, developed and tested the Logitech ConferenceCam Kit so it’s easy to set up, easy to use and delivers the most affordable enterprise-quality video conferencing experience available today.”
As Logitech goes further up the value chain, the flaws of the otherwise valid agnostic approach become more obvious. Back when Logitech was making pure unbundled videoconferencing hardware that users plugged into their own computers, there were no concerns about links into calendaring applications, logging on to different services and the like. Now that this package is an unbundled device, all those issues start to surface.
In a traditional unbundled VC offering, deep links into scheduling software and individual calendars is part of the native offering - a critical factor when the video conferencing hardware isn't attached to any one attendee's computer. This wasn't a problem previously for Logitech - if I'm attending a meeting and am running the video conferencing, obviously I'll be plugging the VC hardware into my own laptop thus avoiding any confusion.
With this package, it's not so simple. If I schedule a meeting with a series of colleagues, I have to somehow include the VC hardware in with that meeting, or else I need to log in and out every time I run a video conference in a particular room. Intel Unite tries to resolve this issue by allowing IT departments to customize a "welcome screen" on the device showing the individual videoconferencing services available on the box, but that still doesn't resolve the issues around scheduling or authentication.
I'd like to see Logitech and/or Intel think about adding location and identity sensing into this product - if the VC unit, for example, knows who I am and senses my phone entering the room, it wouldn't be an impossibility to have the unit realize that I have a meeting and log me in and initiate the call. Those are the sort of things that will help ameliorate the functional gap between packaged and decoupled VC systems.
This is an interesting announcement, but the companies need to do more work on the software side to really drive the benefits and remove the barriers, created by standalone videoconferencing hardware.
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