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Ex-TiVo head Shull may be the fresh face Poly needs

Poly chooses ex-TiVo exec Dave Shull for CEO, a move some UC analysts say will bring a fresh perspective to the company. Others are less enthusiastic.

Poly has chosen former TiVo head Dave Shull to replace its interim chief executive, picking a leader from outside the unified communications industry. 

The video conferencing company announced this week that Shull would replace Robert Hagerty on Sept. 8. Poly's stock fell 7% following the announcement, and analysts' reactions to the news were mixed.

Irwin Lazar, vice president at Nemertes Research, took a wait-and-see approach to the appointment. "The move certainly makes Poly interesting to watch in the remainder of 2020," he said.

Dave ShullDave Shull

Other analysts were more optimistic about Poly's choice. Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research said Shull could lean on Poly's UC experts while focusing on fixing its problems.

Shull will have to navigate the company through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including an economic slowdown, shortages in labor and materials, and a market that has shifted toward working from home. He will also have to help Poly hold their own against much bigger competitors like Cisco and Microsoft. Both were among the myriad challenges outlined in Poly's June SEC filing.

The move certainly makes Poly interesting to watch in the remainder of 2020.
Irwin LazarVice president, Nemertes Research

The company will also have to address selling their hardware, such as headsets and phones, to the hot work-from-home market. Research from MIT found that the pandemic has forced half of the U.S. workforce to work from home, compared to 15% before.

According to Lazar, Poly's hiring of Shull, a consumer marketing specialist, might foreshadow a desire to become less reliant on enterprise customers. 

Poly has geared its portfolio to people in offices. But by bundling products such as headsets, microphones and cameras, they can deliver products to improve the home working environment and capitalize on a growing market, Lazar said.

Poly was formed in 2018 when Plantronics Inc. acquired Polycom Inc. in a $2 billion deal that gave the headset manufacturer a more comprehensive portfolio of endpoints for unified communications. The company was rebranded as Poly but continues to trade on the NASDAQ under the Plantronics moniker "PLT."

The rebranding also resulted in Poly coming out with a logo that gaming accessories company Performance Designed Products LLC alleged was a knockoff of its own. PDP sued Poly but dropped the complaint in 2019.

According to Daniel Newman of Futurum Research, Shull is a leader who has proven that he can negotiate deals, exemplified by the $3 billion merger of TiVo and Xperi.

But he too struck a cautious tone.

"Success is far from a sure thing," Newman wrote on his Futurum blog, "but I like the idea of an outsider's view."

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