With Microsoft Ignite coming closer, and more great news from Polycom appearing on almost a daily basis, we thought it was about time we sat down with Polycom to learn more about the relationship these two tech giants have, and how they’re changing the marketplace.
I got together for a chat with Charlie James, Director Microsoft Alliance EMEA from Polycom, to discuss how the Microsoft relationship is evolving, and what we might be able to expect for the future.
What Does the Microsoft Polycom Relationship Look Like?
To begin with, I asked Charlie to clarify a little more about the history and structure of the Polycom/Microsoft relationship for me, so I could understand how the collaboration really worked. He told me that the two brands have a multi-year automatically renewing contractual alliance. The last renewal was in November of 2016, so we should have a while before we start to see any major changes to the connection between Polycom and Microsoft.
“Basically, we jointly develop quarterly plans, conduct quarterly reviews, and govern the business through regular cadence between the executives and teams from sales and marketing through to engineering. Since neither Polycom or Microsoft sell directly, we focus on making sure that all our partners are trained in both sides of the solution that we’ve developed together. Over the years, we’ve become very effective at onboarding Microsoft partners into Polycom, and vice versa.”
For both Microsoft and Polycom, the focus is on making sure that customers have complete access to an experience that gives them the best of Microsoft solutions and Polycom solutions at the same time. It’s all about joining those two worlds as seamlessly as possible.
Tell Me About the Pillars of the Relationship
While the support that both Microsoft and Polycom can give each other will typically change according to the technology and market solutions available, I was keen to know what the current pillars were for 2017. Charlie told me that this year, Polycom and Microsoft are focusing heavily on the cloud journey for their users, and the development of solutions for Office 365.
For Polycom, the handset and voice experience remains a strong part of their portfolio, but Microsoft is now looking more strongly at the idea of collaboration and group meetings, combining audio and video delivered through exceptional Polycom hardware. For Polycom, there are two specific workstreams to focus on in terms of delivering video to Microsoft.
“Our first solution uses our current RealPresence Group Series. The plan was to get that fully certified for Office 365, which we did in the Spring. Where in the past, dealing with video in meeting room settings was a complicated and time-consuming process, our solution is designed to provide a real “plug and play” service for people who just want to jump straight into the conference room experience. With this service, the customer can avoid complex meeting management which means everyone wins.”
The second option is “Project Rigel” which outlines Microsoft’s intent to design native video units for Skype. Charlie told me that Microsoft have created the reference design build around a dock for a Surface Ptrioro, and Polycom will be building products to meet Microsoft meeting room needs. “The Skype room system we’re developing for Microsoft will be the perfect way for people to jump straight into an Office 365 experience for their meeting, without any added extras or customisations, while the RealPresence Group Series offering is designed for people who want something a little more tailor-made.”
Polycom has just announced an exciting new conference phone – the Polycom Trio 8500 – adding to the company’s state-of-the-art conferencing phones compatible for Skype for Business. Polycom Trio are the only certified Skype for Business and Office 365 conference phones on the market, bringing the Skype for Business experience and functionality from the desktop to the conference room.
Tell Me More about the Possibilities of RealConnect
The third workstream connection between Microsoft and Polycom this year comes in the form of RealConnect for Office 365, a solution designed for companies who want to simply pull the familiar experience of Skype for Business into any video experience. With RealConnect, customers can enjoy a video gateway service that simplifies the process of making connections, regardless of where you might be.
“Previously, we offered RealConnect as an “on-premises” service for businesses, but now it’s built into every office 365 data centre around the world. That means that customers can now purchase the ability to simplify their Skype connections on a license-based format, similar to the options used for Office 365. We think this is going to be huge for 2017, and it’s allowed us to open up a new world of video experiences.”
RealConnect is about using the cloud to simplify connectivity experiences. Charlie told me: “Every customer we’re talking to is making some kind of cloud journey. With RealConnect, businesses don’t have to commit to huge pay-outs for infrastructure, they can simply grow and scale the connections they need based on their business requirements.”
What’s Coming Next?
For now, Polycom is focused on three key things: Polycom hardware certifications, Microsoft Skype room system programs, and interoperability through RealConnect. However, with Microsoft Ignite so close on the horizon, it’s fair to say that there could be some big announcements coming soon.
“Some of the upcoming announcements made by Microsoft could set the agenda for what will be happening in the last quarter of 2017, and 2018. For now, Ignite is the place to go if you want to find out more about what’s coming next.”
While Charlie couldn’t tell me too much about upcoming plans for Microsoft and Polycom, he did tell me that the collaboration has been incredibly successful up to now. Of course, that’s easy to believe when you consider the sheer power of both brands. Microsoft has access to customers all across the globe for its popular software products, while about 70-76% of the handsets in the world belong to Polycom.
For now, I can’t wait to see what comes next from this match made in communications heaven.