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Q&A: Inside Polycom’s Close Relationship with Microsoft

As collaboration spaces are changing and growing, different solutions may be required for different environments. That’s where Polycom and Microsoft’s partnership comes in handy.

CI Staff

Amidst all of the hype surrounding Microsoft’s Surface Hub, we’ve been talking about the integrators and manufacturers that have close relationships with the IT giant, and what that means for the corporate market.

Recently CI IT-centric sister publication ChannelPro-SMB‘s Joel Zaidspiner sat down with two Polycom members — Mike Stacy, senior director, Global UC Architecture team and Randy Riebe, director of AV Integrator Business Development, North America Channel — to discuss their Microsoft partnership. Below is an edited excerpt of that conversation.

Would you give us an overview of the Polycom-Microsoft partnership?

Mike Stacy: We’ve been partners with Microsoft for about a decade now; it started across our entire portfolio of audio and video solutions. In the last couple years, we’ve taken that to the next level by introducing a number of video solutions that range from dedicated Microsoft systems such as the CX8000 [for Microsoft] Lync Room System, also updated versions of the CX5100 and 5500 [Unified Conference Stations]. They give a 360-degree panoramic view.

We’ve expanded our voice portfolio significantly by adding the VVX line, which gives customers better pricing and feature flexibility, and we’ve featured our video infrastructure called RealConnect that allows traditional videoconferencing or net-new video conferencing deployments to have seamless integration with Lync and Skype for Business.

Can you elaborate on your video products for Microsoft?

Stacy: As we’ve worked with Microsoft over the years, traditionally, video conferencing has been just very static, kind of bowling alley view we call it sometimes. … We’ve innovated across the audio and video experiences, and we’ve done that with both Microsoft and standards-based solutions to best meet the customer’s collaboration needs.

So as collaboration spaces and requirements are changing their dynamic — even within one organization — they may find that different types of rooms fit different types of collaboration experiences. We worked with Microsoft to supply the best experience for those customers be it a Microsoft-based room system or a Polycom-based platform. And it gives them really great experience across a wide variety of small and large spaces.

What are the most prevalent solutions for the SMB channel?

Stacy: On the SMB side, we’re seeing a huge uptick on the voice platform. So Microsoft Voice is really taking off, and with that brings requirements for handsets because customers typically are using some combination of handsets and headsets today. They want these devices to work in a way that’s comfortable to them. What we see is when the experience changes dramatically along with the back-end software, that can be disruptive to a customer.

We’ve seen a great adoption and feedback from all of our customers around the Skype for Business platform, the user experience that provides. The phones allow them to extend that traditional voice experience into a more innovative platform, which is Skype for Business. Microsoft announced that they’re going to add Skype for Business Voice into Office 365, which is really their premiere go-to platform for the SMB space. Along with that, Polycom will be supporting Office 365 on our VVX platform to give customers that same breadth of features and functionality and price points on the voice platform.

You also mentioned that you’ll be the only ones. So you’ll be exclusive for Microsoft at the get-go?

Stacy: That’s right.

Tell us about your channel program.

Randy Riebe: From the partner side we are a channels organization, meaning that we don’t sell direct, we go through our channels. I think that the value for the channel partner is the breadth of our products … I think the support levels that they get both from us as a company as well as from our distribution network, is very, very strong. And then the alignment that we have in the field with Microsoft as well as our channel partners to go to market together are the real strengths that we bring as a channel organization.

Besides Microsoft, what else does Polycom products integrate with?

Stacy: We’ve built our entire portfolio on interoperability. It’s something that’s unique to Polycom. So in addition to Microsoft, we have integration not only with friends but also competitors such as Cisco. We can take all of Cisco’s platform and integrate it directly, or we can actually extend it into the Microsoft platform. That goes for all the major video players that are out there, Lifesize and so on, so we can bring all of that together.

It also applies to the voice platforms, so integrating Cisco on the call manager side via a number of partnerships with BroadSoft and Genband, and these types of organizations that do more hosted voice traditionally into our platforms as well. So we can bring all of those audio and video solutions into one comprehensive solution to allow for simple dialing across the entire portfolio, to allow for hosted platforms and so on.

So you bring, basically, a full solution for an SMB partner to come in, integrate all their Microsoft products, any products that they have, and bring them a full corporate look and feel as if they were a large enterprise business?

Stacy: That’s exactly right.

Author Joel Zaidspiner is associate publisher of ChannelPro-SMB and senior executive of ChannelPro Network.