Polycom has released a cloud service for provisioning, managing and monitoring its desk and conference room phones. The hardware vendor's latest attempt to penetrate the cloud market comes a few months before its proposed acquisition by headset-maker Plantronics is set to close.
Polycom Device Management Services for Enterprises (PDMS-E) is a web-based application for controlling Polycom phones from a single user interface. It will let IT administrators manage the settings of individual phones -- or every phone all at once. It also will provide analytics on call quality and connectivity issues. The product is now available in North America.
Next quarter, Polycom plans to expand the capabilities of PDMS-E to include Polycom video endpoints and, eventually, the video endpoints of Cisco, Avaya and Lifesize. The vendor will fold Polycom RealConnect -- its platform for managing interoperability between its devices and Microsoft Skype for Business -- into its new cloud offering.
Also in the third quarter, Polycom plans to release a version of PDMS for service providers, aiming to help those partners improve uptime and enhance their customer portals. The service provider offering will make use of technology and partnerships Polycom inherited from Obihai Technology, which it acquired in January.
"Polycom makes great phones," said Ira Weinstein, managing partner of Recon Research Inc., based in Coral Springs, Fla. "But the important thing here is for Polycom to have greater value and a stronger footprint in the enterprise, they need to add more value."
The Polycom cloud service will provide provisioning, management and analytics tools that many businesses aren't getting from their service providers, Weinstein said. And Polycom can provide more insight than anyone into its own devices.
But Polycom will need to battle against its own public image. "I don't think the typical person in our industry sees Polycom as a cloud service provider," Weinstein said.
In announcing PDMS, company executives said they would not comment on the company's impending acquisition by Plantronics -- a $2 billion deal that is set to close in the third quarter of 2018. Polycom has continued to operate as an independent company as the acquisition closes, said Amy Barzdukas, the vendor's chief marketing officer.
Polycom cloud service extends hardware-based strategy
Polycom decided years ago to make its phones and cameras compatible with the software of a wide range of service providers, rather than build its own calling or web conferencing service.
In a conference call with reporters and analysts this week, CEO Mary McDowell said the company's longtime strategy had proven to be successful, saying revenue had grown last year for the first time in six years. The formerly public company struggled financially in the years preceding its 2016 acquisition by private equity firm Siris Capital Group LLC.
With the release of PDMS, Polycom is looking to gain a foothold in the cloud market without directly competing with the software vendors that power its hardware, such as Microsoft and Zoom, said Rob Arnold, analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
"It's pretty much a follow-through on what they said they were going to do last year: focus on device and not infrastructure," Arnold said. "This way, they are not competing with their partners, and they are staying focused on the hardware and the devices, as they had mentioned."
As phones become more advanced, with built-in video conferencing capabilities and touchscreen apps, businesses need better monitoring and management tools for those endpoints, Arnold said.
Polycom plans to expand its cloud offerings to include meeting room features, such as automatic attendance rosters, facial recognition and natural language controls.