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Video- and audio-conferencing stalwart Polycom is bringing videoconferencing
to the desktop with a media phone aimed at the SMB and enterprise spaces.

The Polycom VVX 1500 is a business media phone with a 7-inch color touch-screen
that combines a personal videoconferencing system with VOIP (voice over IP), so
users can conduct meetings at their desktop via video—a compelling proposition
for companies looking to reduce their travel budgets. The VVX 1500 also boasts
an open API (application programming
interface) and a Web-enabled microbrowser so users can personalize the
applications delivered to their phones.

“Our focus is to go beyond making a call on a voice device,” says Jim
Kruger, vice president of voice communications marketing at Polycom. “The VVX
1500 is targeted at the managerial level and above who are looking for single
device that can provide different features.”

Media phones are the technology to watch for 2009, according to In-Stat,
which recently released a report touting the benefits of media phones.
The research firm believes that media phones for business will generate $3.3
billion in annual sales by 2013, while consumer-focused media phones will
generate anywhere between $4 billion and $8 billion in revenue for the same
time period.

“[Media phones are] a natural evolution of VOIP as the data pipes get
bigger,” Kruger says. “And if you look at the mobile phone market, its
evolution is parallel—over time they have evolved into smartphones with color
touch-screen displays, and now that’s starting to happen over a desktop phone.”

The VVX 1500 features an open API and
microbrowser for third-party applications such as unified communications, CRM
and contact management systems to be integrated into the phone, according to
Polycom. The microbrowser can display “any type of content from the Web, and
users can configure it any way they want,” Kruger says.

Kruger says Polycom is in the early stages of creating a developer network
for building applications for the VVX 1500, and the company offers
standards-based development tools on its Web site.

“Applications are a good way for companies to generate additional revenue—we
will provide a means for developers to market these apps to our customers, and
they also enhance the revenue opportunity for the channel,” he says.

Bundled with the phone is the Polycom Productivity Suite, a management
software system that gives the user control over the videoconference right on
the phone, including recording calls using a USB
port on the phone.

Kruger says the economy may temper the interest for media phones, but adds  that solution providers can position the
product as a money-saving technology, especially for smaller companies.

“If I am a small business and I have three locations and I typically take
two to three trips per year, if I can cut out one of those trips, there is a
strong ROI and increase in productivity,” he says.

Solution providers also could present alternative financing options to
increase interest with customers, Kruger says. “We definitely see a ripe
opportunity now because it plays into reducing expenses and increasing
productivity.”