HP Kicks Off Distribution Of Video Collaboration Portfolio

Hewlett Packard on Wednesday confirmed availability of its new video unified communications products through Ingram Micro, a key step as HP moves further into the business video space and prepares to go toe-to-toe with established market players like Cisco.

HP confirmed the new products in November under the banner of HP Visual Collaboration. Ingram Micro is the first distributor to carry the products, but according to HP, the relationship is not exclusive and HP will add other distributors down the road.

HP is also teeing up a number of different channel training and incentive programs in an all-out effort to attract more UC solution providers and audio/visual integrators to its stable.

"A lot of our traditional partners have a very focused IT practice specifically in the data center," said Frank Cohen, director, worldwide channels for HP Visual Collaboration, in an interview with CRN. "As you know, one of the biggest drivers in network upgrades is video technology, which is one of the fastest-growing technologies in high-tech today. So there's a lot of opportunity."

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The video offerings include HP's Visual Collaboration Desktop (listed at $125 license per 25 seats), a software client for PCs and notebooks; HP Visual Collaboration Executive Desktop ($2,599), which is an HP TouchSmart 600 Quad pre-loaded with Visual Collaboration software and bundled with a camera and headsets, and two conference room video systems, the HP Visual Collaboration Room 100 ($4,799) and Room 220 ($9,499).

Its video software operates with x86 server infrastructures, and can be deployed on-premise, in a hosted model, or through service providers via the cloud. Other key products are the HP Visual Collaboration Router ($9,999 for 100 concurrent connections), which is built on HP-standard server appliances, and Visual Collaboration Gateway ($4,999-$7,499), which can connect H.323 and SIP protocols to migrate companies from their existing videoconferencing products.

At the core of the overall product line is HP Visual Collaboration Portal ($9,999), which enables IT managers to remotely configure, authenticate and license system components, and comes preconfigured on HP ProLiant DL360 servers.

Much of the software, which is based on the scalable video coding (SVC) technology for supporting HD video and lower deployment costs, comes from upstart video vendor Vidyo, whose scalable video coding (SVC)-based software enables the Visual Collaboration products and is under OEM agreement by HP. HP and Vidyo originally previewed their video channel partnership last summer, with the announcement of a strategic alliance.

HP will also continue to support its Halo line of telepresence products, Cohen noted.

In line with the Ingram Micro distribution announcement, HP will host a series of VAR boot camps devoted to educating partners about HP's video UC play. The first is Wednesday in Cupertino, Calif. at HP's Executive Briefing Center, while two more are planned for February in Plano, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y.

HP wants not only to help its existing partners expand their HP businesses by adding video, but also to attract A/V integrators and video specialists who might have little-to-no business with HP already.

"There is a set of traditional A/V integrators that have a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge selling, deploying and supporting videoconferencing solutions," Cohen said. "Many of them don't view themselves as traditional IT resellers, so one of the opportunities for us is to supplement the significant ecosystem of partners we have at HP with partners that aren't traditionally IT partners to our space."

"There's still an opportunity for resellers to get into this space," he said. "Video penetration is still relatively small. The world has changed significantly over the last couple years, and many [partners] assumed at some point that HP, being the largest IT company in the world, would eventually be a major player in this area. We've had a positive reception from the large, traditional A/V integrators in the U.S."

Next: HP's Challenge To The Video Space

HP's Visual Collaboration launch is happening as the video market continues to grow at rapid clip. Researcher Gartner projects that the video conferencing services market alone is expected to reach about $3.9 billion by 2013, with a compound annual growth rate of about 24 percent from 2008 to 2013. Cohen said HP isn't looking to saturate it's video channel, but it will target the top 50 U.S.-based videoconferencing solution providers and A/V integrators -- "most of the suspects you would expect," he said.

"We're less interested in sheer volume," Cohen said. "I'd prefer one engaged partner building a practice around this versus five that just want an opportunistic sale."

It means HP will challenge rival Cisco and other entrenched video players like Polycom, which has been closely partnered with many of those integrators for years -- Cisco both through its own legacy and that of Tandberg, which it acquired in 2010 to gain the top worldwide share of the videoconferencing market.

"I don't think anyone is in a position to stake a claim to the category," Cohen said. "I wouldn't call it immature, but the market is still very young. We believe we're leapfrogging, from a generation perspective, from a lot of the current technologies out there today."

HP's key advantage, Cohen argues, is the breadth and thoroughness of its channel program, as well as its ability to connect multiple technology segments, from video to data centers to mobile devices.

"Beyond the technology itself, we're in a unique position to leverage an extraordinarily strong channel, and a channel program that supports partners," he said. "All the pieces start to fit together from an HP perspective. The deployment, the ease of use, the robustness of the technology, the leveraging of open standards. I think we're in a really unique position."