Traditional enterprise HD video conferencing and telepresence products tend to suffer from a few drawbacks. They’re generally very expensive, requiring significant investments in infrastructure as well as the video equipment; they are often pretty complex to use and difficult to deploy; and they also tend to be incompatible with mobile devices and systems from other vendors. LifeSize, a supplier of video conferencing products that was acquired by Logitech in 2009, is aiming to address those issues and to make video conferencing simpler to deploy and use by announcing some new products Wednesday.
Firstly, Logitech has announced that it has acquired Mirial, an Italian company that provides personal and mobile video conferencing solutions. The acquisition means that Logitech’s LifeSize division will be able to broaden its portfolio and offer a fully interoperable, enterprise video conferencing software solutions for distributed desktop and mobile users, offering compatibility with PC, Mac, iOS and Android devices. Mirial’s products will be added to LifeSize’s product range and will not be re-branded. Financial details of the acquisition haven’t been disclosed.
The company has also announced a new cloud-based business-class HD video collaboration platform called LifeSize Connections. It’s scalable, can be used instead of expensive on-premise infrastructure, and offers up to 9-way video bridging at 720p30 with fully encrypted media (this compares with up to 1080p30, 48-way calling for LifeSize’s on-premise solution, although there are apparently plans to increase Connections’ capacity over time). It’s fairly inexpensive, costing $30 per user per month for desktop licenses, or $100 per seat per month for endpoints. LifeSize will be rolling out a private beta of the service in the next few weeks. It’s expected to become globally available in the third quarter of this year.
Finally, LifeSize is also announcing a new entry-level 720p endpoint, LifeSize Passport Connect. It’s optimized for cloud-based platforms, such as LifeSize Connections, offers a simplified user experience and integrates Logitech camera technology. It costs under $1,500 ($999 when bundled with LifeSize Connections).
With these announcements, LifeSize is taking aim at its enterprise competitors such as Cisco and Polycom. By lowering the total cost of ownership of video collaboration and making its solutions much easier to deploy, it’s hoping that these new products will boost its sales with organizations that might previously have been reluctant to fully embrace video, and also enable existing customers to consider using video with remote offices and telecommuting employees. LifeSize Connections should be attractive to companies with a high degree of client interaction as it enables “guest invitation” capabilities, which will allow them to use their video solution to communicate with their clients. However, when compared with the cheap or free consumer video conferencing solutions available from the likes of Skype and Google, LifeSize’s offerings still seem pretty expensive. As Ryan noted in his post about the launch of 8×8′s Virtual Room video conferencing system Tuesday, companies will need to consider whether the higher-quality video and encryption provided by “business class” solutions from the likes of LifeSize are worth paying for, when cheap consumer solutions are often even easier to deploy and use, and are frequently “good enough” for most purposes.