Polycom adds enterprise videoconferencing to tablets


With dual cameras an expected part of tablet computers, it comes as no surprise that makers of unified communications software want to enable their systems for enterprise videoconferencing.

Polycom Inc. has become the latest to enter the market with what it calls RealPresence Mobile, a free application for Apple iPad2, Motorola Zoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices enabling HD video through any SIP or H.323-based conferencing system.

The company announced Tuesday the application is now available for those tablets on the Apple App Store and Android Market. Eventually it will also be certified for other devices running Apple’s iOS and Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) operating systems, and will likely come pre-installed on some devices.

“From an enterprise standpoint your now able to go mobile [with telephony] in a way that is secure, reliable and easy to use,” Surendra Arora, Polycom’s vice-president of business development.

 “You can use your iPad and connect back to the enterprise when you’re mobile. You’ll get the same benefits of high definition voice and video, and everybody on the system will think you’re on a Polycom endpoint.”

The app allows any number of participants to be on-screen at the same time.

Although it leverages Polycom’s RealPresence platform, RPMobile can connects to any standards-based platform. A Polycom platform, however, will automatically provision the mobile application. All the user has to do is enter a username and password. Polycom platform users will also be able to send and receive documents through RPMobile.

On other platforms users will have to manually configure the app by putting in details of the organization’s communications system.

From that point RPMobile is like any other softphone.

While it is true that almost every IT manufacturer and many industry analysts believe corporate videoconferencing will only increase in the coming years, Andrew Davis, a senior partner at Wainhouse Research thinks doing it over tablets and hand-held devices will be a short-term fad.

Major unified communications companies such as Cisco Systems Inc., Avaya Inc., Vidyo and others will or already have embraced it, he said. But most business people will prefer on a larger screen videoconferencing, he said, where participants are sitting and not walking around.

“I do believe that over time people will find video over tablets and smart phones a bit tiresome.”

Polycom [Nasdaq: PLCM] disagrees, citing a report from GigaOM Pro that predicts the number of people participating in video chats will grow to more than 140 million people by 2015. However, that doesn’t say how many of those calls will be business-related.

Arora has no doubt of the demand. When Polycom went looking for beta testers, it put the word out among its sales staff. “In one day every salesperson had somebody in a Fortune 500 company say, ‘Let’s do it,’” he claimed.

The company does believe that will RealPresence Mobile tablet users will be able to join enterprise immersive (telepresence), group and desktop videconferences. Tablet-toting doctors could use VC to collaborate with colleagues, Polycom argues, students could connect to teachers, staff in manufacturing plants can connect to managers and public safety officers can link to emergency teams.

In picking iOS and Android for its starting operating systems, Arora said Polycom was responding to demands from its enterprise and wireless carrier customers. Eventually RPMobile will be certified for smaller tablets as well, he said. Research In Motion’s Playbook tablet is also being considered.

While iPad 2s come with FaceTime for videoconferencing, Arora notes it only connects to other iOS devices.

Polycom also hopes wireless carriers will leverage the RealPresence Mobile platform to offer cloud-based video service.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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