HP: Vidyo Alliance Previews Major Video Channel Offensive

HP this week confirmed a strategic alliance with videoconferencing upstart Vidyo, part of what one HP executive described as a big-time offensive into the videoconferencing channel.

HP will engage Vidyo in both a classic OEM-style arrangement and as a partner for future product development. According to Darren Podrabsky, marketing manager for the HP Halo Collaboration Studio, HP will use the relationship to attract new video conferencing-savvy channel partners.

"HP will bring on new certified channel partners to go out and generate interest and demand," he explained in a CRN interview. "Part of HP's strategy moving forward is to look at a completely different take on the infrastructure that runs Vidyo on customer networks. The company's technology is one we found to be very innovative, and it's already been proven out in an installed base of folks they're selling to."

Specifically, the entire VidyoConferencing line, which includes Vidyo's software-based desktop and conference room products, will be offered through the HP channel, running on HP servers.

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The companies will begin marketing the products later this year, as part of HP's Halo collaboration brand. Among them will be a desktop solution running on an HP TouchSmart PC, HP confirmed.

Vidyo, the venture capital-backed upstart which emerged from stealth mode in 2007, has cultivated a healthy channel following, and managed to attract plenty of veteran video conferencing channel executives to its stable. Rob Hughes, senior vice president of worldwide sales and support at Vidyo, suggested to CRN in April that Vidyo is "the most profitable video product" those VARs could sell.

The company's technology, which runs on H.264 Scalable Video Coding to minimize latency and offer top-notch video conferencing without the need for endpoint upgrades or cost-prohibitive multipoint control units, is very attractive to HP, especially for its implications for desktop PC use, Podrabsky said.

"HP is amongst other things a PC company, and with our stated strategy to turn every desktop into an HD videoconferencing endpoint, their software-based products are a key ingredient to making that happen," he explained.

The HP-Vidyo move comes the same week as other major video conferencing players look to expand their reach in the hot market.

Polycom, for example, has begun pushing a new product line that offers HD video at a fraction of previous bandwidth needs. And HP rival Cisco, which in April completed its $3.4 billion acquisition of Tandberg, used this week's InfoComm conference in Las Vegas to push its Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP), which according to Cisco will begin shipping in Tandberg video products as early as July as part of the Tandberg TelePresence Server.

HP's existing relationships with Polycom, whose voice and video technologies it resells, and other potential Vidyo competitors HP works with won't be affected, Podrabsky insisted.

"It's not an exclusive arrangement," he said. "We'll continue to work with Polycom and customers that want Polycom or have specific needs for Polycom, we'll sell them Polycom solutions. IT's just about customer choice."

But the video conferencing channel offensive from HP and Vidyo is most definitely for real, he said.

"We want channel partners in the videoconferencing industry today who understand how to sell videoconferencing," Podrabsky noted. "There are a lot of them, and the're selling Polycom, or selling Cisco, or the other stuff that's out there. We're going to come to them with a very compelling solution."

What else might HP and Vidyo be cooking up? Podrabsky wouldn't say, except to note that observers should "keep watching HP in this market."

"No official statements from me, but this is a software-based technology," he said. "We've talked about the desktop. Think mobile. Think about your phone. HP just acquired Palm. Think about how many legs something like this has. Feel free to speculate."

Next: Vidyo Tags Up

Vidyo earlier this week at InfoComm announced a number of other additions to its portfolio. VidyoConferencing, for example, can now deliver video fidelity at 2560 x 1440p resolution.

Vidyo plans to offer VidyoConferencing at 1440p for a limited time as a free software upgrade to current Vidyo customers using Version 2 of Vidyo's software, starting in July.

Vidyo is also now offering free multipoint videoconferencing for room systems, meaning that companies with existing videoconferencing infrastructure can use VidyoConferencing to upgrade that infrastructure without buying the additional MCU-based ports often needed to do so.

Many of those ports cost an average of $6,000, said Marty Hollander, Vidyo senior vice president of marketing.

"We're going to change what [rival vendors] are charging $6,000 a port for, and make it zero," he said. "We're being extremely aggressive relative to the competition. Everything is software upgrade-able and this is an affordable way to ride the cost curve."