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Wainhouse Research's Recap of TEAM Polycom 2016

January 26, 2016 | Telepresence Options

WR analysts Ira M. Weinstein and Saar Litman were pleased to attend and speak at the 8th annual Team Polycom event hosted this year at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The event attracted more than 1,600 people from 70 countries speaking 50 different languages.


The theme of the event was "Change the Game," which we believe made perfect sense given the ongoing turmoil and constant reinvention in the conferencing and collaboration space. As in prior years, Polycom did an excellent job of including and referencing this theme throughout the sessions.


Our time at this event was divided between attending keynote and breakout sessions, one-on-one meetings with Polycom executives, walking the Expo floor and meeting with Polycom technology partners, and an exceptional session including key channel partners (and nobody from Polycom). We'll describe some of the event highlights here.

During the first keynote, CEO Peter Leav described how Polycom's solutions support the workplace of the future (another Polycom messaging theme), and how 2016 will be a year of new opportunities for Polycom. Peter also stressed the importance of audio to Polycom, and boasted that the initial inventory of RealPresence Trio units has already sold out - with a 50% video attach rate.


Leav then invited Microsoft Skype for Business team members Zig Serafin and Ilya Bukshteyn to the stage for a discussion about the strength and value of the Polycom / Microsoft partnership and a demo of how quickly and easily Polycom devices can register to Office 365. This demo was clearly a shot across the bow of Cisco and the company's recent demos showing the easy registration of Cisco devices to the Spark cloud. During this session, the news went public about Microsoft's acquisition of Event Zero, a leading provider of management and analytics software for Skype for Business.

The next session was the Innovation Keynote hosted by SVP Ashan Willy and EVP Michael Frendo. As was the case at prior Polycom events, Willy and Frendo tag-teamed to give a fast-paced, lighthearted tour of several recently announced products including RealPresence Trio, RealPresence Debut, and RealPresence Centro.


The duo also demoed a few pending capabilities like advanced collaboration, 3D video conferencing, and the use of an RFID-enabled employee badge to identify yourself to a meeting room and enjoy one-click call launching. Willy and Frendo also introduced a new offering from Polycom - RealPresence Clariti (more on this later). The top-level theme of this session was keeping things simple, natural, and engaging. And one of our favorite lines from this discussion was that "Millennials check their devices 37 times per hour." In full disclosure, Ira almost missed the stat because he was busy emailing on his phone at the time. J

CMO Jim Kruger then presented to the audience the importance of changing your go-to-market strategy by dealing directly with real end users, not only IT support teams. WR believes very strongly that a successful sales effort must not only consider, but also include those actually using and depending on the collaboration tools. Needless to say, Jim's words hit home with us.


The remainder of the day consisted of breakout sessions focusing on topics including, "Seize the UC Market Opportunity with the new Office 365 Skype for Business Service," and "The Shrinking Office and Business Growth." WR was pleased to act as a guest speaker with Polycom's Dan Engel during the "Close Bigger Deals" session.

Day 2 of the event started with a rousing keynote session focused on "One Team - Together we Win!" hosted by Americas President Chris Jones.


During this track, Chris provided tips and tricks on how channel partners can leverage Polycom solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors and solve real customer problems. Chris also announced a number of demo and kick-start programs intended to help channel partners start selling Polycom's new offerings.

During this session, Ira was invited on stage to provide insight gained from WR's end user consulting efforts.


The theme of my presentation was, "What customers say about collaboration and your proposal after you're asked to leave the room." Key themes included the importance of workflow to customers, how meeting rooms are changing in the enterprise, and that value is the new currency of collaboration.

During the event we also enjoyed an eye-opening session hosted by inspirational speaker Scott McKain (@ScottMcKain) and a fascinating presentation from Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot of US Airways flight 159 who heroically landed his Airbus A320 airplane on the Hudson River in 2009 and saved all 155 passengers and crew.

After more than two days sipping the Polycom Kool-Aid, we left with an overall positive feeling of Polycom's offerings and direction. Although we have yet to test these products in our lab and think there's some overlap between the two devices, we continue to believe that Trio and Debut will do quite well in the huddle room space. We are especially enthusiastic about Trio.

But the major news from the event, in terms of offerings anyway, was Polycom RealPresence Clariti. Although Polycom positions it slightly differently, we view Clariti as a software-based video conferencing infrastructure platform, sold on a per-user license basis, with flexible deployment options.

To be clear - Clariti is not a cloud service offering. Like many other software platforms, however, Clariti could be purchased by a reseller or service provider and used to power a cloud service.

Clariti includes all of Polycom's RealPresence infrastructure solutions including Collaboration Server (RMX), Distributed Media Application (DMA), Access Director (RPAD), Resource Manager (RM), and Web Suite, plus a basic version of RealAccess and a 90-day trial to Media Suite.

The overall Clariti package provides the following functionality: voice / video / audio conferencing, virtual meeting rooms, multi-stream content, mobile and web client support, Skype for Business integration, BYOD meeting control, NAT / firewall traversal, and more.

In addition, the Clariti platform can be installed on the Client's internal VM environment, on AWS, or on Azure.

A key part of Clariti, however, is that resellers and customers no longer need to think about the individual components powering the offering, or the specific items a customer needs. In fact, one Polycom employee told us that, "Polycom is no longer interested in selling individual components." To spec out Clariti, the reseller simply needs to know how many users need collaboration, and whether the customer wants to pay up-front (a perpetual license purchase) or via a monthly subscription.


For better or worse (depending on your perspective), Clariti is also likely to be cheaper for many customers. During this event, Polycom highlighted an example customer who would have incurred a $291,000 up-front cost for the RealPresence platform, but instead would pay $6,300 per month on a Clariti monthly subscription. With a 46-month break-even point, this may or may not be more financially attractive to the end user customer.

A subtle but important point here is that Clariti is sold on a per-user licensing basis. This allows customers to start small and increase their licenses (and monthly cost) over time. In addition, Polycom also offers an optional, pay-per-use "Cloud-Burst" option that allows clients to purchase only the licenses they need for day-to-day business and access hosted bridging capacity (hosted by Polycom) for special occasions.

The entire RealPresence Clariti model, including the optional Cloud-Burst service, is available via Polycom Channel Partners only.

From our perspective, Clariti is a very wise move for Polycom. First of all, the Clariti concept (more than the offering itself) is a step in the right direction for Polycom as it brings the entire team together around the development, sales, and marketing of a single platform vs. individual products. Clariti also simplifies the sales process for resellers, offers customers the ability to start small and grow, and lets Polycom execute a standard "land and expand" sales approach.

And perhaps most importantly, Clariti is a defendable, responsible, and believable answer to the longstanding question of, "What is Polycom's cloud strategy?" The answer is ... Polycom's cloud strategy is to empower channel partners to create public or private Polycom-powered cloud offerings for end user customers, and to make it easy to leverage partner cloud offerings (e.g. Office 365).

Cisco has also been moving in the simplified offering, per-user licensing direction. But while Cisco has chosen to host its collaboration platforms itself (WebEx and Spark), Polycom is taking more of a back-seat approach with Clariti.

Now comes the real work for Polycom. The company has to explain the Clariti concept to its sales people and to its channel partners around the world. While it may sound simple, the devil is in the details of what's included, what's not included, and how to position it with customers. And at the same time, Polycom has to make Clariti easy and fast to deploy.

We thank Polycom and especially the AR team (you know who you are) for its hospitality, and offer kudos for a solid, well run event.

Ira M. Weinstein

Senior Analyst & Partner


Ira M. Weinstein is a Senior Analyst and Partner at Wainhouse Research (WR) and a 20-year veteran of the conferencing, collaboration, and audio-visual industries.

Ira is an expert on video conferencing, collaboration, audio-visual, and UC products and services including group / room solutions, personal systems, and mobile offerings. He has authored hundreds of articles, documents, and reports on the solutions, trends, and technologies within these market spaces.

Ira's time is divided between the following areas:

  • Core research (briefings with vendors, resellers, service providers, and end-users, surveys and interviews, etc.)
  • Content creation including research notes, company profiles, solution reviews, rich media clips, evaluation reports, etc.
  • Hands-on testing of conferencing, collaboration, UC, and AV products and services
  • Public and private speaking at events and conferences
  • Providing strategic advisory / consulting services to manufacturers, service providers, channel partners, end-users, and members of the financial community

Saar Litman

Senior Analyst & Consultant


Saar Litman is a Senior Analyst and Consultant at Wainhouse Research and a 15-year veteran of the audio visual (AV) and video conferencing (VC) industries.

Prior to joining WR, Saar was the founder and owner of Audio-Visual Design (AVD), the leading audio-visual design and consulting firm in Israel. While at AVD, Saar and his team provided AV design and management services to a wide range of small, medium, and large organizations. Specific services included the creation of Standard AV Design packages, the management and handling of RFPs to find AV integrators, the coordination between facilities, architectural, and other resources, and more.

As a part of WR's visual collaboration and AV team, Saar's focus is on the products and services supporting enterprise AV and conferencing. This specifically includes a wide range of audio visual products (e.g. control systems, switchers, audio systems, DSPs, microphones, etc.) and collaboration products and services. Saar's time is divided between core research, hands-on testing of products and services, and client consulting projects.

Ira has extensive experience helping vendors with business development, competitive assessments, positioning and messaging, and go to market strategies.

In addition, Ira leads WR's end-user consulting practice and provides strategic support services (situational assessments, needs assessments, GAP analyses, recommendations, RFI / RFP support, negotiation support, etc.) to large enterprises around the world.

Ira has been an industry analyst and consultant since 2001. Prior to joining Wainhouse Research, Ira held senior positions with conferencing and AV vendors, distributors, and resellers. In addition, Ira ran the global conferencing department for a Fortune 50 investment bank.

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