Polycom's Awesome April: Earnings Up, New Video Products

A funny thing happened to Polycom on the way to underdog status: it got tougher, more aggressive and more channel savvy. Now about to close out a banner April, Polycom's riding high on a punchy, upbeat earnings report and a number of other recent technology- and channel-related developments.

Polycom partners have told CRN that now, more than a year since the retooling of the Polycom Choice Program, Polycom's positioned to more effectively compete against Cisco, which commands the No. 1 spot in enterprise video conferencing revenue, but still trails Polycom in overall units shipped, according to Infonetics Research.

This week, Polycom reported stellar earnings -- its profit jumped nearly sevenfold year-over-year to $34 million for its first quarter -- and has capped its month off with the launch of new telepresence video products.

Both are developments that follow closely on some partner-friendly updates to the Choice program and a shift toward video content management software with its recent acquisition of Accordent.

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The updates to Polycom's Choice Program, made official April 1, were announced earlier this month during the vendor's TEAM Polycom partner conference. Higher investment in Polycom specializations means greater rewards for partners, and specifically, partners can now earn rebates for the types of sales they make behind Polycom's UC Intelligent Core, the company's UC platform.

In addition, Polycom has also launched a telesales organization for managing lead generation and deal registration with partners, and a Global Response Team to provide a single resource for partners looking to have Polycom channel partnership questions addressed quickly. Further, Platinum and Gold level Polycom partners will now have specific Polycom sales engineers assigned to help them.

"We definitely put a lot of emphasis on making it as simple as possible to do business with us," said Maurizio Capuzzo, vice president of channel marketing at Polycom. "We think that if we can make it more predictable, we can enhance profitability and how strongly they can develop their relationship with us."

Other Choice Program elements have changed slightly. Gold partners are now required to hit $1 million in annual Polycom sales, whereas the threshold was previously $750,000. Platinum partner volume requirements are the same: $5 million in Polycom sales annually.

"We've seen our partners grow, so for some, we're going to put the bar up a little bit higher," said Deandra Cassidy, director of global channel marketing.

Cassidy and Capuzzo were quick to point out that partner tiers and their various rewards aren't solely based on volume performance. When the program was launched in January 2010, the requirements for Gold and Platinum partners -- from greater specializations and technical staff certification -- were defined by investment, too.

There are some additional requirements now; Platinum partners, for example, are evaluated for customer satisfaction. But Gold and Platinum partners also earn fatter rebates automatically: 0.5 to 1 point more per quarter for Gold, up to 3 points for Platinum.

Polycom's standard deal registration award is now 8 percent, Cassidy added, whereas deal reg points were previously awarded between 3 and 8 percent based on the type of deal being registered. The online deal registration is now automated, as well.

Finally, Polycom later this year will launch a partner locator tool and also a routing system designed to ferret leads to qualified partners and their areas of specialty.

With regard to its Accordent acquisition, Polycom will be offering Accordent's video content management software to Polycom partners once Accordent and its channel program are integrated into the company. According to Cassidy, Polycom and Accordent had about 40 overlapping partners before the acquisition -- a not insignificant amount but small compared to the hundreds of Polycom VARs in North America alone.

Next: Polycom Adds To Telepresence Lineup

Polycom earlier this week introduced new telepresence products, including EagleEye Director, a room camera tracking system that automatically finds and focuses on speaking parties, thus removing the need for camera adjustments during a conference. EagleEye comes as an option, listed at $8,499, for all HDX Room Telepresence Systems.

New to the HDX 4000 family is the HDX 4500, a desktop telepresence system that natively integrates with systems from Polycom partners like Avaya, BroadSoft, HP, IBM, Juniper, Microsoft, McAfee and Siemens.

The vendor partnership ecosystem is crucial for Polycom's growth, and on its Q1 earnings call, CEO Andy Miller indicated that about 23 percent of Polycom revenue during the quarter came from Polycom's top seven open collaboration network partners.

List price is $11,999, and both the EagleEye Director and HDX 4500 wlll be available through Polycom partners by the end of April.

Another new Polycom offering is Polycom Telepresence m100 -- a software application for PCs, and at a price of $49, targeted at SMB customers. When deployed on laptops, Polycom said, the m100 offers video connectivity with H.323, SIP and other standards-based telepresence systems. Channel partners will be able to offer it starting in June, Polycom said.