Microsoft was a late entrant into the unified communication market. In a very short period of time, the company has jumped from relative obscurity to the No.2 market share vendor and now offers a robust premises-based solution with Skype for Business (formerly Lync) and burgeoning cloud service within Office 365. Microsoft’s best partner throughout this journey has been Polycom, which is the main supplier of IP phones to Microsoft Skype for Business or Office 365 customers.
This week at the Enterprise Connect conference, Polycom made a number of announcements that expands the partnership to bring video to conference and huddle rooms. It seems a switch flipped inside Microsoft over the past six months. Historically, Microsoft has seemed almost dismissive of the value of video, perhaps because so much energy was spent legitimizing Lync, now Skype for Business as a credible voice platform. Whatever the case, Microsoft seems to developed some religion around video and is looking to make a big push into conference and huddle rooms.
During his keynote, Microsoft Skype Business Services Corporate Vice President Zig Serafin announced plans to expand Skype Meeting room solutions to a wider variety of endpoints. Polycom customers will be able to leverage existing video endpoints as they migrate to either Skype for Business or Office 365. Microsoft customers can get benefits of the high quality, proven Polycom video products in UC rollouts.
Polycom’s widely deployed RealPresence Group Series video solution is planned to be qualified to run on Skype for Business Server in the first half of 2016 and supported on Office 365 around mid-2016. Customers can use the Polycom client or a new Skype for Business like user interface on the RealPresence Touch device. For customers that want to build workflows around Skype for Business, the familiar interface will make it easier. RealPresence Group Series can be found in a wide variety of rooms today including immersive telepresence rooms, conference rooms and small huddle rooms so the partnership between Polycom and Microsoft will aid customers in getting Skype for Business in more rooms faster.
At the show, Microsoft also announced something called “Project Rigel” that can bring the Skype Meeting based experience that is found on Surface Hub to other devices. There has been a tremendous amount of interest in Surface Hub but the solution is expensive and the product has been delayed. Now customers can have the great Surface Hub like experience without having to buy the hardware.
Polycom announced it would be delivering a number of new room solutions that deliver the Skype Meeting experience, as shown on Surface Hub, without the super-expensive hardware. Polycom is also in the process of Rigel certifying its CX5100 and new RealPresence Trio products.
Lastly, many Microsoft customers are looking to shift to Office 365 but want a heterogeneous solution. The two vendors announced that Polycom is building a video interoperability service hosted in the Microsoft cloud. The service enables Office 365 customers to connect to other video vendors, such as rival Cisco. On stage, Microsoft demonstrated interoperability with one of Cisco’s new SX endpoints. Also the service will offer RealConnect, which enables Skype for Business and non-Microsoft endpoints to have a Skype like user experience.
Polycom and Microsoft have had a “BFF like” relationship now for well over a decade. But unlike Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie or Lauren Conrad and Heidi Montag, this relationship has no signs of deteriorating. Both companies understand that the joint solutions give customers a superior experience. Microsoft is relatively new to UC, particularly video, and the Polycom partnership brings a wide variety of proven solutions that enable Microsoft customers to realize the benefits video now.