Polycom Wants to Make Video Ubiquitous for Small Business

Polycom has a vision of making accessible and robust video collaboration the foundation of small business communications. To that end, the unified communications (UC) specialist on Wednesday unveiled a new wholesale cloud offering designed to help service providers deliver video-as-a-service (VaaS) to their small business customers.

“The small business market is probably the market that today is the least served from the video perspective,” said Gary Testa, vice president for Cloud and Service Providers, Polycom (NASDAQ:PLCM). “The historical reason for that is that the infrastructure to support video is really large and expensive.”

Until now, Testa said, only enterprises have had the resources to leverage video collaboration. But video capability can be transformative for a small business, he said.

A small home-inspection firm he had met with recently illustrates his point.

The inspectors have different areas and levels of expertise. One inspector, for instance, is an expert on wood rot. He can’t go on every home inspection, but when other inspectors discover signs of potential wood rot, they can use a tablet and video collaboration to contact that inspector, show him what they’ve found and leverage his expertise.

“A lot of times people think of video as you looking at me,” Testa said. “But it could be me showing you something. That’s where the use cases for video really explode. Frankly the tablet is the form factor that’s really going to drive video into the small business environment.”

 He added, “One of the most interesting parts of video communication and collaboration is the capability to know instantly whether you’re being understood. The whole concept of video collaboration really speeds communication.”

Testa explained that Polycom’s offering is entirely standards-compliant, so small businesses that get the video collaboration services through their service providers will be able to use any compliant video endpoint with it. Polycom offers its own range of endpoints, including a tablet, but customers could easily use an iPad, Android device or videophone from another manufacturer.

The Polycom RealPresence Cloud is intended to compress the time-to-market and time-to-revenue for service providers, giving them the capability to quickly and seamlessly deliver video collaboration services to their small business customers with carrier-grade scalability, reliability, availability and security.

By offering its tools on a service-basis, Testa explained that service providers can then implement video collaboration quickly for their customers without having to fully integrate and support the core infrastructure on-premises.

“What we see is that after they’ve had the opportunity to operate their service through our cloud, eventually they’ll want to pull that in-house,” Testa added.

While Testa conceded there are numerous consumer-facing apps for video communication that small businesses can already access, he noted that those services are point-to-point. Using Polycom’s offering, Testa said service providers can deliver multipoint video collaboration.

Moreover, the consumer-facing apps are walled gardens, Testa said. A person using Skype video calling can only call another person on Skype, not someone using Facetime or Google Talk. But Polycom is a founding member of the Open Visual Communication Consortium (OVCC) with a mission of ensuring the same sort of standards-based interconnectivity among video collaboration networks as currently exists among telephone networks

In others words, regardless of carrier, anyone using OVCC-standards-based video communications will be able to connect with anyone else using OVCC-standards-based video communications.

“We believe that video-as-a-service from the cloud will be a true game-changer. Delivering video-as-a-service will make it possible for anyone to connect and collaborate face-to-face with anyone as easily as we text or tweet today,” said Andrew McFadzen, president, OVCC.

“Making this happen,” McFadzen continued, “requires that the UC and telco industries come together to solve the underlying interoperability challenges of delivering video across the assets of multiple carriers and video networks. Polycom, along with many of the leading telecommunications solution and service providers, has been working to address this and the result will be the opening of an open video cloud in 2012.”

Polycom said Polycom RealPresence Cloud is now available with limited availability for qualified service providers.

Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals.

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