Lifesize Unveils Two Videoconferencing Endpoints, Cloud Service Upgrades

For years, if not decades, videoconferencing has been the technology of tomorrow. But the shift to cloud-based infrastructure that's remaking the IT landscape is finally ushering in the long-promised age of enterprise-grade videoconferencing.

Lifesize is on the vanguard of that charge. The Austin, Texas-based developer of videoconferencing solutions, a subsidiary of Logitech, brought to market Wednesday two endpoint devices that pair with an updated cloud service, making it easier and more affordable for businesses to integrate videoconferencing systems into conference rooms big and small.

Lifesize CEO Craig Malloy told CRN the industry is undergoing a dramatic transition, one being driven in large part by consumer products such as Skype that are becoming prevalent in people's personal lives.

[Related: Lifesize Opens Up New Videoconferencing-as-a-Service To The Channel]

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Now "employees are demanding from their IT organizations on-demand, anytime and anywhere videoconferencing capabilities," Malloy said. Those technologies do more than help avoid travel costs -- they make employees more productive and engaged in the workplace, he added.

The sweeping shift to cloud infrastructure for mission-critical business applications has revolutionized the technology, making it practical to tie together an integrated network of low-cost, high-performance endpoints like the two Lifesize is bringing to market.

The new devices, optimized to work in huddle rooms, "are really about scaling the Lifesize experience to every person and every conference room in your company," Malloy said.

Icon 400 is a compact conferencing system with unified camera and endpoint designed to work with the Lifesize Cloud. The product started shipping to the vendor's distribution channel in December and is now available to the market.

The Icon Flex is an endpoint designed to connect through USB with other calling applications, improving the experience of using solutions such as Microsoft Lync, Google Hangouts and Skype. Lifesize is completing development of the product now, and Flex should ship in February, Malloy told CRN.

Both Icon 400 and Icon Flex work seamlessly with Lifesize's touch-screen audio system.

The cloud-based software enhancements introduced Wednesday will extend Web-based calling to more browsers, add unlimited guest calling, introduce interoperability with Microsoft Lync, extend video scheduling through a Microsoft Outlook add-in, and expand into the Google Apps ecosystem with a Chrome extension.

Lifesize hosts its cloud with IBM SoftLayer in eight IBM data centers around the word and with 30 network POPs connecting SoftLayer to the Internet backbone of every major population center.

"We simply and affordably can enable an entire organization with really high-quality video communication," Malloy said.

The new products are representative of what Malloy describes as the biggest upheaval in video communications he's seen in his 20 years in the industry.

NEXT: Evangelizing Videoconferencing

Simon Dudley, Lifesize's chief evangelist, spoke at The Channel Company's NexGen Cloud conference in December, explaining the revolution that is finally enabling face-to-face conversations from a distance.

"The future was always going to have videoconferencing in it, but the present didn't seem to," Dudley said.

A decade ago, videoconferencing was hampered by two big problems: quality of the experience and ubiquity of delivery. Systems on the market then were prohibitively expensive and just didn't scale, creating "a last-mover advantage in which the last buyer got the best system at the lowest price with the most people to ring," Dudley said. Solving those problems wasn't possible back then, he added.

"Videoconferencing has sat there in the dark ages until basically now," he told an audience of solution providers, adding, "In industry, it's a multibillion market. But most people think it doesn't exist."

What people do know is that they talk to their kids on video, he said.

At the same time, the shift to cloud-based applications has eliminated the headache of managing an expensive, complex system requiring dedicated IT setup.

"Because it's now cloud-based, we can talk about solutions rather than having to talk to people about how the technology actually works," Dudley said.

"Videoconferencing has gone to being an application like many others that solution providers sell every day. And yet most aren't selling it," Dudley told the audience, adding it's the kind of application that's easily bundled with other products.

Walter Somsel, director of sales at Conferencing Advisors, a California-based solution provider specializing in videoconferencing products, told CRN his company has seen tremendous growth through providing high-end video solutions that help clients collaborate in real time.

"Our clients are looking for user-friendly solutions, with connectivity from anywhere and on any device, and that deliver a high-quality video experience. Because we help clients with customized solutions that best suit their needs, our business grew quickly in 2014 with rapid-growth partners like Lifesize," Somsel said.

Business clients want scalable solutions that are easy to use, interoperable with multiple devices and networks, and can be managed without tasking IT teams. They prefer service providers that keep solutions up to date and reduce the administrative demands on IT. They also want robust backup, redundancy, failover, and customer support critical for 24/7/365 operational uptime, he told CRN.

"Lifesize Cloud service provides a world-class operational platform that one would expect from a top-tier provider. It enables us to provide fantastic solutions to our clients through great products and services, innovations, low total cost of ownership and support," Somsel said.