Polycom adds iPhone VC client, Sierra expands M2M

Polycom Inc. is finally extending its videoconferencing client to one of the hottest smart phones.

The company’s RealPresence Mobile software is now available for Apple Inc.’s iPhone 4S from the Apple AppStore, it announced Monday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

It also said that it will shortly start releasing the clients for handsets running version 4.0 of Google’s Android operating system. In addition, it said Apple iPad2s using RealPresence Mobile can share documents that use Adobe’s PDF format.

Also at MWC, Vancouver’s Sierra Wireless said that its Open AT application framework is now available on its 3G AirPrime SL8 series of modem modules, which are used in machine-to-machine applications.

Since October, Polycom has been releasing RealPresence Mobile clients for an increasing number of tablets and smart phones. The initial group included the Apple iPad2, Motorola Zoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets.

The client can be used by consumers for SIP or H.323-based conferencing. However, to take advantage of enterprise security and management features calls have to go through a RealPresence bridge.

Surendra Arora, Polycom’s vice-president of mobile product management, said previous generations of iPhones didn’t have processors powerful enough for videoconferencing. That changed with the iPhone 4S.

Known mainly for its audio communications systems, Polycom is trying to make sure that enterprises know it also has videoconferencing solutions, he said.

“When customers think of Polycom, they think of our phones or room and group [videoconferencing] systems. What we’re doing is expanding that with a [mobile] platform and software approach.”

The company wants to support as many mobile devices as it can, he said, although he couldn’t says when clients for Research In Motion’s BlackBerry hand sets and PlayBook tablets are coming. Right now Polycom [Nasdaq: PLCM] is committed to Apple iOS and Android, he said.

Despite their small size, Polycom does believe that people in business will want to use smart phones for video collaboration, Arora said. Wireless networks are increasingly robust enough to handle the traffic, handsets have video cameras and many staff in organizations have been raised on the consumerization of the Internet, he said.

One doubter is Ira Weinstein, a videoconferencing analyst at Wainhouse Research. He believes most will prefer the bigger screens of tablets for working.

 “Smart phones are functional for this,” he said, but “tablets are well-suited.”
Similarly, Rich Costello, senior research for unified communications at IDC said in an email that he expects to see an increasing use of video on tablets for mobile collaboration by organizations as opposed to smart phones.

Also in Barcleona Sierra Wireless announced its Open AT application framework for developing apps is now available on its 3G AirPrime SL8 series wireless modems. Until now it had only been available for the 2G AirPrime SL6 modems. The modems are used in machine-to-machine modules.

One such application, also announced Monday, is the Pictowatch from a Netherlands firm. It helps individuals with cognitive disorders – such as dyschrony (a condition whereby the sufferer is unable to recognize what time of day it is), dementia and Asperger’s Syndrome – in managing daily routines. The SL6 element in the watch connects wirelessly to a Web server that hosts a wearer’s schedule and can send reminders.

The Open AT framework is an operating system and set of libraries that can take advantage of the modem’s central processor and memory. Applications developed on the framework – which can be written in C++ — can be developed faster and less expensively than apps that have to use processors outside the module.

According to Olivier Pauzet, senior director of marketing and market strategy at Sierra [TSX: SW], the 3G AirPrime module has been available for some time, but customers to use it as a “dumb modem” without access to Open AT.

Open AT was ported to the 3G module at the request of a customer, he said, who needed to sell products in the U.S. and Australia. Australia only has 3G networks now, Pauzet said, while in the U.S. wireless carriers are pressuring M2M solution providers to use their 3G networks, which are more efficient than their older networks.

It took almost a year to get Open AT onto the SL8 series, he said, after working with chipmaker Qualcomm.

“It’s quite a big achievement,” Pauzet said, for companies with Open AT applications on the SL6 series modules can seamlessly use the SL8 modules.

Open AT is a free framework. Sierra also provides tools for developers.