With Polycom's New App, Take Your Videoconference To The Cloud, Talk With Facebook, Google, Skype

The makers of your boardroom's teleconferencing mic systems are trying to increase video adoption by letting any Skype, Facebook, and Google Talk user host videoconferences.

When you think sexy, do you think videoconferencing? Probably not. But that might be about to change—at least a little bit.

Telecommunications giant Polycom, which makes the teleconferencing mic systems you've likely used during office conference calls, is trying to make it more attractive today by launching a new cloud-based video collaboration app that lets any business or consumer use videoconferencing through their chat client of choice.

Within the RealPresence CloudAXIS Suite app, which Polycom introduces today, a user can see a single list of all their friends across different chat clients, including Skype, Facebook, and Google Talk. The app allows them to start a multi-person videoconference with anyone using those clients by dragging and dropping their name into a window within this app. That will send an IM to the invitees with a link that lets them join the conference without the need to install software or be an existing RealPresence user. Videoconference participants can also share text, slides, and their desktops within these calls.

Polycom's competition in the enterprise videoconferencing space includes Cisco, which offers teleconferencing services through WebEx; Citrix's GoToMeeting; and fast-growing startup FuzeBox, which raised $20 million in July for its real-time videoconferencing service.

Sudhakar Ramakrishna, Polycom's president of products and services, tells Fast Company RealPresence CloudAXIS was designed to provide as many options to as many of its 450,000 customers as possible that would make videoconferencing a cinch.

"We just respect the fact that users have choices. Some use Facebook, some use Skype, and some use Google Talk, but they all need to communicate with enterprise users," he says.

The goal for Polycom is to drive greater video adoption, which Ramakrishna says has been generally low, due to, among others, inconsistent user experiences; often-complex systems that require IT support; the limited number of devices on which video is available; and cost of ownership.

Because RealPresence CloudAXIS has low barriers to entry, only requiring participants to have a webcam and a browser with no need for additional software or special hardware, Ramakrishna says it will be more attractive and accessible to more resource-strapped customers, thus driving video collaboration across a broader range and number of users.

"We’re not constraining users to a particular technology," he says. "If we can make this technology real in their environment, they will choose to use it more."

[Image: Flickr user Nick Hall]

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