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Lifesize Cloud: The New Connected Experience From The HD VC Innovators
Shown above, connection to Lifesize Cloud via their WebRTC Browser interface
With a new Cloud offering, a new brand identity, and a returning visionary at the helm, the industry and market are taking a very close look at Lifesize right now. We spoke with co-founder and returning CEO Craig Malloy, to find out why he came back to videoconferencing, the strategy behind their new cloud offering, and how Lifesize plans to differentiate itself from the ever increasing number of competitors in the field.
While taking a break from the VC industry, Craig benefited from a very different perspective of the state of the industry. Insiders revel in the massive ROI from a properly installed and maintained enterprise class video infrastructure. Small business owners and startups, lacking deep internal IT support, have a different experience. To put it as simply as possible, it was still too hard. The Lifesize room system UI has always been regarded as one of the better designs in the industry, and comparatively easy to use, but that isn't enough. The entire environment, every connection from every device, has to be drop dead easy. Craig told me that the days of selling to the IT guy are over, today's solutions have to be optimized directly for the user. Craig explained how the new Lifesize Cloud offering is designed to do just that, in a way that he believes puts it ahead of competitive offerings from the other traditional room system players, as well as the new cloud upstarts.
Lifesize has always sought to find the missing element that was keeping VC solutions from ubiquity, and to implement that element before the competition. When resolution was the big battle in VC, they were the first to support 720p in the meeting room. When the focus shifted from resolution to affordability, they were the first to offer a system in their class at under $5,000. When the focus shifted again to virtualization and usability they created the first virtualized MCU and created a "Smart Video" user experience. By addressing this last usability hurdle, allowing users to make any type of connection from any of their devices, they expect to truly answer our long awaited VC expectations, and to once again get their first.
So what exactly is this new Lifesize Cloud service? Is it like the Polycom thing? The Cisco thing? The Bluejeans thing? WebEx? Skype? The market has drastically changed since Lifesize first hit the scene and only had to compete with Polycom, Tandberg, and a couple of other room system vendors. Now there are as many market segments as there were vendors, and each market segment is bristling with competition. Lifesize is positioning their new cloud service to address the perceived weakness of each existing four major visual collaboration offering types (see below).
The basic elements of the offering are as you would expect. Their Icon room system provides the meeting room piece, a new unified app allows for desktop or mobile connections, and guests can dial in (point to point, or to a 25 person capacity virtual room) from any SIP/H.323 friendly endpoint or WebRTC enabled browser. Aside from addressing the issues in the graphic above, there is a lot to like about the new Lifesize Cloud. The unified directory (with presence) makes person to person calling (and instant escalation to multipoint) a more natural and easy experience. We dial people by name on our cellphones, the days of remembering numbers is long past. The fact that it is the same workflow to start or join a meeting whether you are on an Icon system, desktop, or mobile will certainly help adoption. And their strong support for easy instant, and scheduled, meeting creation will be appreciated. Other cool features include easy switching between devices, and even having all your devices (phone, tablet, desktop and room) ring at once, allowing you to choose how you feel like connecting to any particular call.
Another reason to like the Lifesize Cloud is that it comes from one of the most successful and experienced room system vendors in the industry. Why should I expect hardware guys to make a good cloud solution? Because I believe the hub of the enterprise videoconferencing world is still the meeting room, and will be for some time. The dynamic of one meeting room calling another never really made sense (we just did it because we could only afford VC for those rooms). But the new dynamic of remote workers, who can't make the physical meeting, joining by video makes a lot more sense. When I worked as an attorney we did case rounds every week in the physical meeting room. There was always 1 or 2 attorneys who were out of town and had to call in on audio. This situation, and others like it, are still primary opportunities for videoconferencing. The meeting room is the hub and it has to be a top class solution. And if that room can be supported by a cloud made by the same company, as well as its entire environment, from desktop to mobile to guest, all the better. Besides, those of us who follow the more geeky tech stuff know that Lifesize's true innovation has always been on the infrastructure side. The endpoints just got a lot more press because they are sexier.
Many of my recent articles have been following the same trend. VC is finally easy, flexible, and affordable enough to expand beyond the Fortune 500 and into the SMB market. Lifesize Cloud is another offering looking to make some waves in this expanding market, and it is definitely one of the ones to watch.
About the Author
David Maldow, Esq. is a visual collaboration technologist and analyst with the Human Productivity Lab and an associate publisher at Telepresence Options. David has extensive expertise in testing, evaluating, and explaining telepresence and other visual collaboration / rich media solutions. David is focused on providing third-party independent analysis and opinion of these technologies and helping end users better secure their visual collaboration environments. You can follow David on Twitter.
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