Polycom Teams With Microsoft for Unified Communications

Under a multi-year strategic deal, unified communications (UC) vendor Polycom will deliver solutions based on Microsoft’s Communications Server 14, along with a joint go-to-market plan, the companies said in a joint statement Monday.

The agreement calls for Polycom (NASDAQ: PLCM) to ship “integrated end-to-end” UC solutions on a global basis that provide compatibility with the next version of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) UC platform.

Polycom’s solutions for Microsoft Communications Server 14 will span markets ranging from the enterprise, to small and medium-sized businesses, to governments, the statement said.

The promised integration aims to help bring Microsoft’s UC product together with Polycom’s conferencing tools, which the companies said over time will make the two systems easier for IT and telecommunications staff to manage.

“[Communications Server 14] is an incredibly comprehensive set of tools, including integration into workflow with SharePoint,” Mark Roberts, vice president of partner marketing at Polycom, told InternetNews.com. SharePoint is Microsoft’s group collaboration and content management server, which has become a big seller in the enterprise, generating over $1 billion a year in revenue for the software giant.

Products based on the strategic alliance are still in the design stage.

“It will be 12 to 18 months before we see [products result] from the agreement,” Roberts said. “Our R&D teams are meeting right now.”

Polycom is perhaps best known for making the ubiquitous three-cornered voice conferencing units that can be found in many conference rooms around the world.

Polycom and Roundtable

Less known is that, in spring 2009, Polycom took over distribution of Microsoft’s RoundTable panoramic videoconferencing system. Polycom is currently working on developing an updated version of the unit, Roberts said.

Besides video conferencing, Polycom also has a line of voice conferencing products.

“By integrating video, voice, instant messaging and conferencing solutions, Microsoft and Polycom give customers the ability to be present, anytime, anywhere,” Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Unified Communication at Microsoft, said in the companies’ statement.

Among the products in the pipeline, Polycom said it’s engineering new, “room-based video systems designed specifically for enabling direct integration with Microsoft Communications Server 14,” the statement said.

As part of the agreement, both companies will invest in sales and marketing, as well as providing support to partners. Polycom is also participating in Microsoft Technology Centers around the globe, with five already online in Atlanta, Chicago, New York, London, and Paris — and another 18 planned by the end of the year, Roberts added.

Given Microsoft’s recent branding trends, what is now being called Communications Server 14, might change to Communications Server 2010, in the same manner that other recent Microsoft server products have been named, when it’s released later this year.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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