Polycom's Latest Video System Embeds Microsoft Lync

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The new system, set to be officially announced at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles, is Polycom's CX7000, code-named Rally. The Microsoft hook is that Polycom embedded a Lync client in the system so that users can access all of their Lync functions -- from Outlook scheduling to messaging to collaboration -- natively using the Polycom system. Polycom already offers interoperability with Lync in its various telepresence systems and also in its UC Intelligent Core platform, but the CX7000 is the first with a full-on Lync client already within.

"You can't get much deeper than having a Lync client on the actual codec itself," said Jim Kruger, Polycom's vice president of marketing, in an interview with CRN. It's a fully Polycom systems -- camera, microphone, codec -- but Polycom sought to tighten Lync integration to the point where it be configured the same as a Lync client on a desktop PC.

"It's dead simple from an IT managers' perspective," Kruger said.

Polycom hasn't confirmed exact pricing but a Polycom spokesperson said the lower-cost CX7000 will be around $10,000 per unit. It'll be two SKUs, the difference between the two units being a better-quality camera in one with more effects such as zoom.

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It'll be available in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Polycom. The CX7000 with also work with Lync Online as part of Office 365, Microsoft's cloud applications suite.

For the channel, Kruger said, Polycom partners will benefit from sales of CX7000 as a plug-and-play unit for Microsoft-heavy environments. Polycom will also market the CX7000 through Microsoft VARs, who need only to register with Polycom to sell the CX product line and don't have to be fully certified Polycom partners, although according to Kruger, many are already.

Deals will be registered and fulfilled under Polycom's channel program, although the two companies will do a lot of co-selling and the product will be officially Microsoft-certified, Kruger said.

Microsoft and Polycom tightened their U.C. alliance last summer, optimizing Polycom CX series endpoints for Microsoft U.C. and declaring that they would partner on product development and marketing, as well as joint channel incentives.

According to Kruger, Polycom and Microsoft have six strategic agreements in place spanning joint sales and joint marketing activities, and the two companies are also developing scalable video coding (SVC) technology together. The two companies also have a mutual ally in HP, whose video portfolio Polycom acquired last month for $89 million. Polycom has made a number of strategic alliances with notable enemies of Cisco as it looks to counter Cisco's formidable video and U.C. portfolio.

Microsoft in May said Lync sales had grown 30 percent in the most recent quarter. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said Microsoft will explore connecting Lync to the Skype customer base as part of Microsoft's proposed $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype.