Is Polycom Positioning Itself as the un-Cisco?

There is a sense that unified communications is an open game. Earlier this month, Microsoft rebranded Communications Server, Communications Online and Communicator as Lync, to much industry fanfare. This week, Polycom – a company that has a narrower video focus – went a long way toward remaking its business.

The company hired six executives and consolidated its video, telepresence and voice development units.

The hiring of Joseph Burton for a bunch of titles (Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy and Technology Officer, General Manager Enterprise and Service Provider about covers it) is the most intriguing because he was drawn away from Cisco. Other hires include Sudhakar Ramakrishna, who comes from Motorola. He only gets two titles, however: Senior Vice Present and General Manager Products and Chief Development Officer.

The question is, of course, what the moves mean in the big picture. itWorldCanada has the most comprehensive round-up of reaction. The first point that comes through is that Burton is very well respected. The second major point is that knowledgeable observers think Polycom has good technology, but that it needed to get new leadership in place. The piece mentioned Cisco’s acquisition earlier this year of Tandberg, and a closer relationship between Avaya and Polycom competitor LifeSize, which itself was acquired by Logitech late last year.

Andy Miller, the President and CEO of Polycom since May, is a veteran of both Cisco and Tandberg. In a Q&A with Forbes last month, Miller was suitably laudatory toward his two alma maters – mostly Tandberg for its technology and Cisco for its marketing – and hinted that it is possible to do well as a counterpoint to a giant, especially in a segment that is moving toward standards:

But I’ve also learned in working for and against Cisco that agility and strategy will win out at the end of the day. So in my role as CEO and president of Polycom, I’m focused on product perfectionism. With the highest quality product and this strategy of Open Collaboration Networks to clearly differentiate us against Cisco, we think we can be very affordable and still win.

The planets keep moving in the UC vendor sector. The early line on the latest move is that Polycom is lining up to be the Cisco alternative. And, if that is the case, it makes sense to have to former Cisco big wigs running the show.

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