Executive Insights: Skype, Polycom and the Collaborative Workplace

Executive Insights: Skype, Polycom and the Collaborative Workplace

The future of the Collaborative Workplace is all about making it easier to connect with others, particularly those who are not in the same location. As we all know, people are constantly looking for easier ways to facilitate that.  Microsoft officially announced Skype for Business this week - effectively killing off the Lync Brand in favor of a better known and larger user base affiliated with Skype. They also announced that Skype Rooms  - aka Video Conferencing Solutions - are going to be provided by Partners, such as Polycom. This Blog Post is about Microsoft and how it will impact the Collaborative Workplace.

Skype and Office 365 as a Cloud PBX

The big sound bite from Zig Serafin, the new SVP for the Microsoft Skype Business Unit, is about being able to call people on any phone with Skype. That functionality isn't available until later this year - but Microsoft is trying to make a big play in Voice. The only problem with that is that up to now Lync Audio hasn't been that great quality wise. 

It is clear however, that Microsoft is committed to making Skype for Business fully functional in the Cloud for both Calls and Conference Calls:  they are partnering with AT&T, BT, Colt, Equinix, Level 3 Communications, Orange Business Services, TATA Communications, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone to make it happen. What this means is that Microsoft is placing a big bet on Enterprise Voice with Office 365.

This move to put Voice in the Cloud (leveraging Azure and Office 365) positions Microsoft as both a partner and a competitor of Unified Communications providers. This bet is not without risks - and we will be watching closely as they roll out production versions of Skype Voice.

Skype Rooms - Powered by Polycom and others

Microsoft  has been pushing Lync Room Systems - which will now be called Skype Rooms. Even though the Room Systems were provided by others, Microsoft controlled the pricing for Lync Rooms and it was not that attractive.  High pricing allowed a lower-end segment to emerge from Google and others. With Polycom's announcement of the Polycom Roundtable 100 - a packaged Video Conferencing Solution priced under US $1,000, Microsoft is signaling that it understands the needs of both SMBs and the need for a small huddle room - and Polycom is innovating with a cool new Solution that is priced right. 

The Impact on the Workplace

Aragon feels that Video is a critical part of the Collaborative Workplace of the future. In fact, our forecast suggests that video enabled conference rooms will grow to 50% adoption by 2020 (5 out of 10 Conference rooms will have video). That is much higher than the current situation where only 10% of conference rooms have video.

The race to own the Collaborative Workplace is on and there are many ways to solve the productivity puzzle. While Microsoft has made a big splash on Skype for Business, it is still a work in progress that we will be monitoring. In the meantime, my firm Aragon Research focuses on all aspects of the Digital Workplace - something that I'll be talking about in New York City on April 1 (register here).

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