LifeSize CEO Sees 'Wonderful Opportunity' For Video Channel Growth


Fresh off of a year of game-changing additions to its videoconferencing and infrastructure portfolios, LifeSize Communications now has an even bigger job: Taking market share from the titans of the video world, Cisco and Polycom, while ensuring its loyal solution provider partners that they'll be able to continue to profit from LifeSize and have the sales and marketing air cover they need.

LifeSize is the video company best positioned for channel partners to follow-through on video's promise, according to its new CEO, Colin Buechler.

"We believe we're at a terrific junction in the growth of video communications," Buechler said in a recent interview with CRN. "The industry has moved toward that vision of immersive communications. If there's voice, there should be video, and in order to do that, you have to make it easy to use and cost effective to grow and scale."

Buechler was named chief executive of LifeSize in January, succeeding LifeSize co-founder Craig Malloy, who'd headed the company for nine years. His appointment was one of several recent changes at LifeSize and its parent company Logitech, which ousted its former CEO, Gerald Quindlen, last summer following a series of disappointing earnings reports.

Buechler and Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing, said the technology moves LifeSize has made in the past two years have positioned it to tackle the widest range of customer video use cases, and also helped expand LifeSize beyond its roots as a provider of videoconferencing endpoints and infrastructure.

Those moves included the launch of LifeSize Connections, a cloud-based HD videoconferencing service aimed at customers craving HD video but not willing to invest in premise-based endpoints, and most recently, LifeSize Universal Video Collaboration (UVC), a video platform deployable either as a hardware appliance or as scalable software for use in a virtual machine.

[Related: Where's the Puck Going In Enterprise Videoconferencing?]

LifeSize also increased its mobile footprint with the July 2011 acquisition of Milan-based Mirial, a specialist in mobile video. The mobile question will become increasingly more relevant -- researcher Frost & Sullivan pegs the number of tablets in the enterprise as hitting nearly 50 million by 2015 -- but it's just one of several ways customers will want to use and manage videoconferencing, Buechler said.

"For the technology to go mainstream, you really need to solve the cost and complexity of growing customer networks," Buechler told CRN. "We're solving these problems in two different ways, whether customers want to grow and scale on-premise or if they want someone to manage it for them. For the foreseeable future, I think you'll see both environments exist."

It's a great time to be in video, Buechler added, because of not only customer demand but also a comparative lack of companies that can get both the video technology and the video channel story right. LifeSize's market positioning between the costly high-end video systems of Cisco and Polycom and the range of lower-end consumer and prosumer-centric video options is key to its appeal.

"[Video] went from a travel avoidance cost investment to a strategic business enabler -- an internally-focused collaboration technology to, increasingly, connecting partners and customers," Buechler said. "We see that demand continuing to increase, and what's not necessarily happening quickly enough is the reduction in cost and complexity to build those video networks. So our partners have a wonderful opportunity."

Randy Marcotte, co-founder and director of sales for Perfect Video Conferencing, a video reseller and managed services solution provider, said that LifeSize makes the most sense among enterprise videoconferencing players from a "price to performance metric."

"I can go to large Polycom customers and say, look, why don't you just give me a place at the table," he said. "If it proves itself to you, you're better off. If it doesn't, at least we've done no harm and you go into your decision educated. It's an easy discussion if we can get to the table because of price, but Cisco and Polycom can also do price modification. We win on the performance, because the technology just works."

NEXT: LifeSize's Evolving Channel Story