During the course of my regular briefings with industry professionals I often come across information that I find newsworthy. We have created this recurring feature as a way of sharing these items with you. Below are notes and thoughts from a few of my most recent briefings.
Mitel / Polycom
Our industry is abuzz with news of this big merger. I was able to brief with Polycom’s Jim Kruger to get the inside scoop. While the nuts and bolts can be found in the press release, the big takeaway in my mind is how Polycom and Mitel, in turn, can open up new markets for each other. Polycom has a fantastic channel in the enterprise space, where Mitel would love to gain more traction with its cloud and UC offerings. On the flip side, Polycom recently released new products well suited for the SMB crowd, where Mitel has a strong customer base. Stay tuned for more info on this story.
CMO Sajeel Hussain reached out to me for a briefing before Enterprise Connect. I was aware of CafeX, as a contact center and CMR player, but not as a business communication provider. So I was curious about their new Chime offering. As they briefed me I soon realized this was not just one of the many new solutions constantly entering our space. This was different and intriguing on a number of levels. My reaction was later confirmed when they won best of show at Enterprise Connect.
One of the things that makes Chime stand out is that it promises to finally realize the dream of WebRTC. It will work on all browsers with no plugins and no compromises. Many analysts (having been burned before) are taking a “I will believe it when I make a call from Safari and IE” approach. I am on the list for an early beta account and will be sure to let you know as soon as I try my first call.
Chime is also interesting on the network side. It has a very unique approach to routing traffic through enterprise locations, more like node based streaming solutions than the typical video meeting room approach. Clearly, there is a lot going on here and this will be one to watch.
Mike Savic, VP Business Development, gave me the inside story on the content management capabilities of the Discover Video Platform. While there is no shortage of video capture and distribution providers, many of them fall short when it comes to the content management piece of the puzzle and easy affordable deployments. First of all, their solution is virtualized and can be run on standard PCs, eliminating the use of expensive encoders. Rather than charge six figures for a deployment of encoders, they have a cloud offering with an affordable monthly fee.
Their real strength is ease of use. A Discover Video deployment in a school has enterprise capabilities, but teachers and students can use it with little training. Kids can broadcast “news reports” live while principals can manage digital signage across the campus. Parents can even check in on their mobile phones.
I spoke with Dave Patterson, CEO and Founder of Firebind, to catch up on his current offering. While there are a number of products that test a network for ping or basic connection ability, Firebind goes quite a bit further. It offers the ability to set up virtual “reflectors” at any point in the network, and to simulate actual traffic (video and/or audio calls) from point to point. The result is a robust set of reporting that shows actual network conditions over time, rather than a snapshot at a particular time. For companies and users looking to diagnose those “last mile” problems, this could be just the ticket. Dave updated me about a number of high profile (albeit NDA) deals they have recently closed with service providers in our industry. He also explained a new, low priced, offering designed to directly help end users diagnosed their connectivity problems. Stay tuned as I plan to dig in deeper in the near future.
There has been a lot of talk about FreeConferenceCall’s entry into our space. With perhaps the best possible URL for a conferencing provider, their video offering is bound to attract some attention. I spoke with President Bob Wise to get the details. With users in over 800,000 businesses, the company has a massive footprint. Most of that use is grassroots, with customers signing up individually, rather than CTOs purchasing corporate accounts. Now however, they are starting to win top down sales for the premium version of their offering which includes an admin portal, analytics and other business features.
Bob’s key message is quality. He understands that “Free” is a bit of a dirty word in the video industry and he is looking to ensure customers that his video services are enterprise ready and business quality. The offering is still new, so I will check back soon to find out how user uptake is going.
I spoke with Mike Newman, President of MediaPlatform about his vision and direction for the company as they look to bridge the gap between VC, webcasting, and recording. The business video content portal space is heating up. What used to be a domain for the AV crew is opening up to the common worker. Many of us are now comfortable uploading videos to YouTube to share our content and we are ready to do the same in the workplace with our business video content.
While there are several “YouTube for Business” offerings on the market, MediaPlatform differentiates with a number of enterprise ready features including advanced permissioning and analytics. Videos uploaded to their Primetime portal can be added to channels that are available to specific groups within the enterprise, made available to the entire company, or even shared with externals.
They have a WebCaster product, but I was particularly interested in their SmartBridge offering, which allows one to webcast and record from standard videoconferencing systems. We have these high quality cameras in many of our meeting rooms which are typically only usable for videoconferencing. It makes sense to add the flexibility of webcasting and recording.
What really sets them apart from my perspective is their SmartEdge, SmartPath and Video Business Intelligence offerings. These solutions add intelligent networking and powerful analytics to their video suite. These tools give IT the ability to protect their network, and the quality of their broadcasts, while giving them the feedback needed to address any experience issues.
I spoke with Alex Epshteyn, founder and CEO at Thirdlane, and was very impressed by the breadth of this offering. At first, I thought this was simply a cloud PBX play. In fact, it offers much more with a Slack-like workflow and a number of power features. It really is a full communications suite, with even the ability to send and receive faxes. Calls can be switched between a desktop phone, or its WebRTC browser portal, to meet customer preferences. It integrates with popular CRM programs, so your calls can be automatically logged to Salesforce, for instance. Of course, it also supports video. With a powerful admin portal, and the ability to install on premises for greater security, it is worth a look for growing businesses.