polycom_logoI had a meeting with Kevin Young and three Polycom executives (Jim Kruger, Ben Guderian and Stefan Karapetkov) at VoiceCon to discuss several interesting announcements.

Normally, we'd think that Polycom was responsible for the phone hardware, but now they're introducing software features on their portfolio of IP phones. This is an excellent value added move. With the increasing success of mobile devices driving down the price of DSPs, processors and memory, Polycom IP phones need mechanisms to increase the average selling price – and software functionality is it.

  • Firstly, Jim discussed the improving the VoIP quality with the HD Voice (G.722) feature involves 7 kHz sampling (instead of 4 kHz sampling of classic telephone systems) to deliver wideband quality.
  • The new Polycom Productivity Suite is four applications for the portfolio of IP phones including access to the LDAP corporate directory, call recording onto local USB-attached storage devices, visual control of a four-user conference call, the quality measurement on Polycom endpoints and support for 3rd party (usCSTA) call control by external applications. The Polycom SoundPoint® IP desktop phones have enough processor power to enable these applications and will be priced as much as $11.99/IP phone.

Enabling conferencing on a SIP phone is much harder to do than on a digital phone. That's because it needs to terminate multiple RTP sessions and bind the audio streams together. This is processor intensive work. The recording feature is cool too since it can simplify compliance for customer-facing industries like securities.

  • The endpoint quality client – the Telchemy client – is deployed on the phone such that network engineers can measure and troubleshoot the phone's role in any degraded session. This is a huge step forward for improving the quality of VoIP. I remember in some of the implementations that I had worked in, noisy calls (pops, artifacts and distorted words) were so annoying because it reflects on your brand. Then when you called the IT staff to complain they had no tools to do anything other than agree with you that there was a problem and they'd look into it. NOW, they have a tool to troubleshoot. Of course, the gateway is the most likely culprit, but that would take a similar client to assure quality analysis.
  • Ben Guderian, spoke about the SpectraLink 8002 as an entry-level Wi-Fi handset in the portfolio. This phone lists for $349 or $399 with two extra battery packs.  This is a new market vehicle for Polycom. It addresses the owner-managed business that doesn't have extensive Wi-Fi networks deployed, yet have a real need for mobile service within the Wi-Fi footprint. Expect new channels to market for this product. Many of the OEMs will accept the product, but it's primary vector to market is the catalog and high intensity channel, not the enterprise VoIP brands. 
  • Stefan explained that Polycom's Unified Collaborative Communications vision is to make visual collaboration as easy to use as IM. They announced integration with Microsoft Office Communications Server at the show for all of the HDX products (high definition). As well, Polycom will support the Microsoft RT Video codecs which enable the HD user to easily deliver a high quality video stream to a colleague using Office Communicator's IM client. This complements Polycom's interworking with IBM Sametime announced at Lotusphere.

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