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BT, Polycom Go Deep on Video Integration

The unified conferencing partnership announced today by BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Polycom Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM) represents a major step forward for their relationship, according to BT, surpassing even the videoconferencing work BT has done to date with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). (See BT Touts TelePresence.)

BT will continue to work with Cisco and Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA) and sell services around those video products, but the Polycom relationship exceeds those in terms of collaborative effort.

"Polycom has broken some new ground from their past, and it's beneficial for us -- they are starting to focus on the service provider segment of the industry," says Bob Seidel, vice president of marketing and sales operations for BT Conferencing. "We have been doing some of these things with Cisco, but frankly, what we are now doing with Polycom even goes beyond what we do with Cisco."

Polycom will be working more closely with BT on the software required to enable BT to differentiate the unified conferencing service it offers using Polycom videoconferencing gear, Seidel said, and the firm is structuring a new global support program for BT's multinational services.

"We have software applications that we wrap around all of our various products -- Polycom, Cisco, or Tandberg -- and these are crucial to us because we differentiate in terms of our software," Seidel says. "We have levels of integration with all the partners, and this is Polycom saying it's ready to go to a higher level of integration."

Those software applications enabled BT to give its customers a toolset that allows for easy scheduling, call launching, monitoring, and more, according to Seidel.

The collaborative software effort will enable BT's Bridge Connect services to be implemented on Polycom's RMX conference infrastructure and will enable BT to offer Video Network Operations Center (VNOC) services, announced in October by Polycom, and intercompany services through BT's Global Video Exchange. Polycom also will upgrade BT's existing video bridging infrastructure.

"They've also structured a new support program for us, a new program that is better suited to a global provider." BT believes the Polycom support, which includes 24-hour help desk service, is an industry-leading effort in terms of its global focus, Seidel notes.

Multinational videoconferencing is a major driver for the unified conferencing industry right now, Seidel adds, as more companies are doing global business but want to avoid the cost and lost productivity of global travel. He feels that's a major reason telepresence sales have continued to grow, even in the economic downturn, though not at the same pace as prior to the last quarter of 2008.

The new services will be available after the first of the new year.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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