LifeSize Adds Skype Video Integration To Passport Line


LifeSize has added Skype video calling integration to LifeSize Passport, the vendor's portable telepresence system. It's a move that according to LifeSize will open up new opportunities for partners thanks to the ubiquity of Skype and the ease of compatibility with LifeSize video endpoints.

Passport, which was first introduced in 2009, offers HD-quality videoconferencing with minimal hardware, and starts at $2,499. It's a SMB- and midmarket-focused product and has been a popular draw for LifeSize almost since it was introduced, and users have been able to use it to make audio calls to Skype accounts since the beginning.

The video aspect, however, builds on LifeSize's Skype compatibility significantly. Using updated software for Passport, LifeSize customers can initiate video calls with Skype users and have Skype contacts appear in their LifeSize directories. What's required is that the LifeSize Passport user is also a registered Skype user, and then the Passport user can log into Passport using his or her Skype credentials.

"Let's say a marketing manager [with a LifeSize Passport] needs to do an ad hoc call with a contractor or another third party, for a collaboration discussion," said Mary J. Miller, director of product marketing at LifeSize. "Before now, it was, let's go find another LifeSize video system or interconnect. Now they can say, 'Are you on Skype?' and connect the video with their PC."

The software, which is LifeSize software version 4.8, is already available. For existing Passport customers, it's a free download, and it will come integrated in all future Passport shipments. Only Passport has Skype video integration at present, Miller said, but compatibility for other LifeSize video endpoints is coming.

Greater compatibility with Skype means a less obvious opportunity to replace customer Skype use with enterprise-grade LifeSize endpoints. But LifeSize doesn't see it that way, said Sandra Hill, director of channel development. It's an opportunity to make LifeSize video products more flexible -- especially with Skype's popularity as an IP communications service -- much the same way LifeSize endpoints are compatible with systems from Microsoft, Avaya and other vendors.

"Partners do run into Skype, and they can tell a complete story rather than be threatened because it's not a LifeSize endpoint," Hill said. "We're an open standards company, and really, Skype opens the door for more LifeSize and customers who need high-quality video."

It's also another inroad for Skype, whose greatest traction is with consumers, into enterprise business accounts. Skype launched a formal channel partner program last year, and the move with LifeSize helps drive Skype into the market for room-based business videoconferencing, said David Gurle, vice president and general manager of Skype for Business, in a statement.

Expect LifeSize to continue to make moves that cement its channel momentum, Hill said, following last year's enhancements to the LifeSize Channel Partner Program. The company now boasts nearly 1,200 partners in North America, more than 220 of which were added in the past year following LifeSize's 2009 acquisition by Logitech.

The next few months, Hill said, will see new opportunities for LifeSize solution providers in partner enablement and training. Watch for the rollout of a new LifeSize partner training and education system in the mid-summer timeframe, she added.