Logitech looks to cloud and mobile video meetings

The LifeSize division annouces new services and the acquisition of a mobile video company in a bid to extend Logitech's videoconferencing reach

Logitech's LifeSize division is embracing the cloud in a bid to extend videoconferencing's reach, announcing new services and the acquisition of a small mobile video company called Mirial.

Mirial, based in Milan, provides videoconferencing clients for PCs, Macs, and a wide range of mobile devices, including iPads, iPhones, and Android tablets. Logitech did not disclose the price it paid for the privately held company. It plans to integrate Mirial's clients into LifeSize Connections, a newly announced cloud-based service that lets organizations set up high-quality videoconferencing without investing in their own back-end infrastructure.

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Also on Wednesday, Logitech was set to introduce LifeSize Passport Connect, a high-definition endpoint system designed to be used with the cloud-based service. Passport Connect is built around a Logitech webcam and is priced at $1,499, well below other LifeSize end systems.

These latest moves fulfill goals that LifeSize CEO Craig Malloy laid out earlier this year, to bring two-way videoconferencing to mobile devices and introduce Android clients. The company had announced one-way video streaming to Apple iOS devices in February. A tie-in between the LifeSize Passport video system and Skype, announced in April, presents another method of bringing mobile users into meetings. However, Microsoft's announcement later that it plans to acquire Skype has raised questions about that arrangement.

New, high-powered mobile devices, which put sharp screens and fast processing in the hands of employees nearly everywhere, represent the biggest growth opportunity for videoconferencing, according to Malloy and others in the industry. Analysts expect the market for room-sized meeting systems to grow slowly over the next few years because of high costs and space requirements. Mobile devices are quickly proliferating and offer a way for more workers on the road to participate in video meetings.

Cloud-based services are also a growing trend in videoconferencing. Smaller businesses are demanding these services now so they can save the cost of infrastructure, but large enterprises will also embrace the cloud, according to Frost & Sullivan analyst Roopam Jain.

On Tuesday, 8x8 introduced the 8x8 Virtual Room service for small and medium-sized enterprises, powered by the Polycom UC Intelligent Core software platform. Users will be able to join Virtual Room meetings via a Web browser or on Polycom HDX video systems or VVX business phones videoconferencing endpoints. 8x8 Virtual Room starts at $199 per month, with limited-time introductory pricing of $99 per month for the first year. Broadsoft also announced it will use Polycom's platform to build cloud-based UC services for service providers to resell.

Mirial offers free mobile clients in the Apple and Android application stores. It makes money by selling client software for PCs and Macs and a complete client/server architecture that enterprises can set up in their own facilities. Its client software works with other platforms that are based on industry standards, including ones from Polycom, Cisco Systems and LifeSize, said Michael Helmbrecht, vice president of product marketing at LifeSize.

Following the acquisition, which was expected to close before Wednesday, LifeSize will immediately begin selling Mirial's products through its own channels and will continue to sell and support them for the time being, Helmbrecht said. Mirial and its workforce of about 25 people will remain in Milan. Over time, its clients will be ported over to LifeSize's cloud-based services so mobile users can join in, he said.

LifeSize Connections, the cloud service announced on Wednesday, is designed for enterprises that don't want to invest in videoconferencing infrastructure themselves but want something more than a simple Internet-based video system. With it, LifeSize will provide all the key components of a dedicated video meeting system, including firewall traversal and bridging, delivered from a cloud infrastructure.

Initially, LifeSize Connections will only be available on dedicated LifeSize endpoints, PCs and Macs. But soon the mobile clients from Mirial will be included, and LifeSize will also add support for third-party videoconferencing systems, Helmbrecht said.

The LifeSize Passport Connect system is the first LifeSize product to incorporate a Logitech device since the companies came together in 2009. When Logitech acquired LifeSize for $405 million in cash, some observers questioned the wisdom of the purchase because of Logitech's strong consumer orientation. LifeSize is mainly focused on enterprise products. The integration of low-cost equipment from Logitech could help to expand the market for videoconferencing, Frost & Sullivan's Jain said.

The Logitech camera it uses is a 720p HD device. Passport Connect includes name-based dialing, so participants can be added with the click of a button, and a presence display to show whether those users are available. In addition to the LifeSize Connections service, it works with Microsoft OCS (Office Communications Server) and Lync, as well as communications platforms from Alcatel-Lucent and Avaya. With a one-year subscription to LifeSize Connections, buyers can get the system for $999, the company said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's email address is stephen_lawson@idg.com.

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