Logitech Preps LifeSize Video Conferencing Push

By Chris Talbot

Peripheral manufacturer Logitech has traditionally played in the consumer and SMB spaces, but the company will be pushing further into the enterprise space in the coming weeks and months with news related to its 18-month-old acquisition of LifeSize. Part of that news, which Logitech and LifeSize representatives wouldn’t spill, is a new focus on enterprise unified communications.

To focus more on business customers, the vendor formed the Logitech for Business division in April, and one of its key areas will be unified communications, said Eric Kintz, vice president and general manager of the Logitech for Business division. The new division, which will start announcing new products in the next month, has its own R&D and marketing departments in an effort to structure itself as the business-to-business side of Logitech’s business.

"For Logitech’s traditional business, unified communications provides a significant opportunity because it’s peripheral-rich with attach of webcams, phones and so on," Kintz said.

According to Kintz, the reason Logitech is making a more focused push on unified communications, in particular videoconferencing through LifeSize, is because unified communications is becoming mainstream. The technological and societal factors necessary to make it a mainstream suite of technologies have come about, and so Logitech is ready to get into the game.

Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing at LifeSize, echoed Kintz’s comments about unified communications going mainstream.

"This is a large and really rapidly growing market that’s exciting because it’s going mainstream very quickly," Helmbrecht said. "We have a unique position at Logitech in having a full line of solutions for PC and Mac and over time more mobile device peripherals for video calling and audio calling."

Within unified communications, Logitech will focus its product and program efforts going forward to address three major trends in the market.

The first major trend is the integrations of video platforms into a merged experience. Kintz said the technologies are currently fragmented, with desktop only speaking to desktop, meeting rooms only talking to meeting rooms, and mobile platforms also being somewhat siloed. Logitech plans to release products that will integrate desktops, meeting rooms and mobile devices into a more seamless experience, pushing customers closer to a ubiquitous video communications experience, he said.

The second trend is in regards to how videoconferencing will be deployed and purchased in the future. Traditionally, buying and rolling out videoconferencing products has required big up-front costs, but virtualization and cloud computing technologies are changing that requirement.

"We see that changing and following the path of other pieces of infrastructure," Kintz said. "First in a virtualized environment, so we see infrastructure following similar trends to other infrastructures in VMware-type deployments."

With two other recently-acquired companies, SightSpeed and Paradial, combined with LifeSize, Logitech seems pretty much set to deliver hosted videoconferencing technologies. Although Kintz did not say that the plan was to release a hosted videoconferencing service, it’s easy to speculate given SightSpeed provides hosted video communications, Paradial offers firewall and connectivity products, and LifeSize offers the hardware and codecs for videoconferencing. Wait and see what the company actually announces in the next month.

Speculation aside, the third major trend Kintz mentioned was the need to address new customers, especially in the SMB market segment. The costs associated with videoconferencing solutions have kept the technology mostly in the enterprise and midmarket, whereas SMBs (and especially start-ups) have used services from the likes of Skype. With cloud services, that will reduce costs to the point where SMBs could afford it, opening up the market to an entirely new market space.

"There’s a big greenfield opportunity in SMBs. Today, the videoconferencing market has been predominantly focused on the enterprise space and mid-market," Kintz said. He hinted at new endpoint and peripheral products coming from Logitech in the coming months that will make it even easier for SMBs to buy into videoconferencing. It will also provide opportunities to the IT reseller and telecommunications channels.

"You’ll see us increasingly bringing B2B-centric cameras, and if you combine that with the LifeSize codec, you can create a new generation of endpoints that will help address the needs of SMBs," he said.

This article was originally published on 2011-06-01