Friday, March 13, 2009

Vidtel Pushes into SMB with Polycom

Been trying hard to get this post up before the day is out. It's been an intense week on a few fronts, and it's been a good week for Vidtel. This is Scott Wharton's startup, and he's put together a solid team and a great offering since launching in early December.

You can read up the background in that post, but the story today is a nice progression. Vidtel came to market with a Grandstream video phone, selling a video telephony service to consumers. It's a huge opportunity, but you have to win business one household at a time, and that will take a while for an unknown startup. No matter. Scott has a plan, and with a solid offering, I'm confident he will make this work.

The SMB market is another frontier altogether, and to tackle that, they need an upgraded handset and partners with an installed base of customers and/or channels. Well, they have that now with Polycom, and together, this should be a winner.

Earlier this week, Polycom announced the launch of their VVX 1500 media phone, which features HD voice, video telephony, and open APIs to support third party and SIP applications. It's another step along the path of how telephones and PCs are morphing into appliances that support IP and Web-based applications.

Vidtel enters the picture with a follow-on announcement about how they are now the world's first provider of an SMB services offering built around the VVX 1500.

Now we're getting somewhere, folks. To me, this is big news - it's probably the coolest, sexiest SMB offering out there, and once people wake up to what's on offer, they should be running to get this service. Speaking with Scott today - on Vidtel of course - I can see how excited he is about the news. It's truly an industry first, and Vidtel has come a long way in a very short time.

Actually, Scott noted that my call with him was probably the world's first real-world session using the VVX 1500 over Vidtel's network. Well, that makes two of us who were excited to be talking about this today - cool! So, for what it's worth, maybe I have the scoop for a change, and I can tell you that the call quality was great. The video image was crisp, the colors were bright, and the session ran pretty much in real-time. No noticeable jitter or image degradation - it was a solid experience. That may be the most important takeaway from this post - it works, folks - and I'm sure the market will love it once they try it out.

When I presented about SIP Trunking last month at the IT Expo, this is exactly the type of offering everyone is looking for to leverage the power of end-to-end IP. HD voice is a big part of the story, and you'll know what I mean if you've experienced it. Combine this with high quality video, and the VVX 1500 becomes a powerful communications hub, and will be a great driver for videoconferencing, something I've been bullish on for a while. For more background on HD voice, I'll steer you to an interview I did recently with Polycom's Jeff Rodman, who is regarded as the "father of HD voice".

To sum up, it's been a big week for Vidtel, and a good one for both Polycom and BroadSoft. Scott had a long tenure at BroadSoft prior to Vidtel, and their BroadWorks platform is a key component to enable and support the applications that make the VVX 1500 such a powerful communications device. Lots of familiarity here, and in this case, I think that's a big reason why all these pieces fit together so nicely.


Dave Michels said...

I am not familiar with Videtel, but I don't understand from this blog what the excitement is about. Hasn't Packet8 and others offered this for some time. What is unique here?

Jon Arnold said...

Hi Dave;

Nice to hear from you again. You make a good point with Packet8. They have a nice offering with Response Point and have been doing SMB video for some time. I see quite a few differences, though. For business, Packet8 is primarily a telephony solution that adds video. Their handset is pretty basic and will do this quite well, but it's still basically a phone. The VVX is a "media device" and is more about supporting voice/video applications than just straight up telephony. That's where BroadSoft comes in as the engine to drive these apps on the VVX, and over Vidtel's network. Vidtel's network is optimized for video, whereas Packet8 is more voice-centric. Packet8 will have a broader market appeal - whereas the VVX will cater more to the tech-savvy end of the biz market who wants to do more than just talk and make video calls. I'll leave it at that for now - hope that helps.