Polycom's Big Announcement a Game-Changer for the Channel

By Kelly Teal Comments
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Channel partners, in the wake of Polycom's big announcement that its new CloudAXIS software plugs RealPresence video conferencing into outside platforms such as Skype, Facebook and Google Talk, may be wondering what the launch means for them. Analysts agree: Opportunity abounds – but only if you're IT- and IP-savvy.

This week, Polycom introduced RealPresence CloudAXIS, the most dramatic leap the company has made toward becoming a software UC provider since it started moving away from a hardware-only focus a couple of years ago. To that point, CloudAXIS lets Polycom users, from an Internet browser, extend enterprise-quality conferencing to people using third-party video services on laptops, smartphones and tablets. At the same time, the RealPresence platform comes with other new features including HD and SmartPairing, where Polycom's RealPresence app will connect a mobile device to the Polycom conference room phone. All of the new products and updates are sold only through the channel.

Polycom is not the first vendor to launch an open-standards platform that works with the likes of Google, Skype and Facebook. Vidyo and Blue Jeans Network beat everyone to that punch. However, Polycom is the first supplier with the brand recognition, customers and channel partners to release this kind of platform. And analysts are watching to see what happens.

"We believe the move from a hardware-centric to a software-centric and a cloud-based model is a major one, requiring flawless execution," UBS analyst Amitabh Passi wrote in an Oct. 8 client memo.

For additional observers, Polycom's shift comes a little late, but for some defensible reasons.

"Polycom should have done this earlier, although I don't think the market was quite right," said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. Before, wireless networks ran too slow, cameras cost too much, processors featured too-little power and the cloud had not taken off. That's all changed. And now, Polycom rivals Cisco and Avaya have some catching up to do, analysts say. When Avaya and Cisco will follow Polycom's lead remains the question, since they continue to make the bulk of their money on hardware and do not want to cannibalize that revenue even as they know they must move into the cloud.

For Polycom partners, CloudAXIS marks a game-changer. Many indirect salespeople are struggling to provide more than boxes and connectivity to their customers; they need to offer value.

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