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Published on December 18th, 2009 | by Alexis Argent

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Polycom VVX 1500 Business Media Phone, Asterisk & OCS: An Interview with Chris Wortt, Polycom’s EMEA VoIP Sales Manager

Recently, Polycom took home an award for “Best VoIP Hardware” at the the Internet Telephony Service Providers Awards held this past week in London, UK.  Recently, we spoke with Chris Wortt, Polycom’s VoIP Sales Manager for the EMEA about the company, its award winning product, and where Polycom is headed.

Below is a transcription of our call.

[VoIPon] Chris, first off congratulations on your recent award win, that’s fantastic! Why do you think the Polycom VVX 1500 Business Media Phone was given the award for Best VoIP Hardware. Perhaps you can tell VoIPon’s listeners what makes it unique?

[Chris Wortt, Polycom’s VoIP Sales Manager, EMEA]Well, thank you Kathleen, and thanks very much for noting the award. We’re very pleased to receive that so it’s great news for Polycom. Good question on the business media phone, the Polycom VVX 1500. Some of the reasons why, I think, are many of the qualities that Polycom is synonymous with in terms of the quality, in terms of ease of use, user interface etc., etc., have got to play a fairly major part in that. And the reliability, but probably more importantly, the organizations that have adopted this product, and the organizations that continue to find ways to adopt this product are realizing that VoIP is not a commodity market, although certainly in some areas it is, and this is actually something called a business media phone. And what this means to busy professionals is not just the ability to manage complex call functions, but on top of that, to add in applications that are personal to their business, so that could be any form of light application integration like CRM, or more complex back end business applications like manufacturing machine monitoring or call rate monitoring we can sit them in the applications portal that actually resides on the VVX 1500. And this is why we call it a business media phone, because it gives us the the capability to not only offer telephony, but a whole bunch of other media, and of course one of those very important ones is the video, to actually bring business grade video to the user base, or the business user base which is our target market.

[VoIPon] Some folks online say it’s expensive in spite of its potential to be an incredibly useful business tool. Are you worried that it’s price point will hurt it’s widespread adoption or is this even your goal? I think in these times of economic recovery, VoIPon’s listeners would like to know how this product offers good value for the money?

[CW] {laughs} That’s a great question, yeah. I guess it could be perceived as expensive, and I guess that very much depends on what you align it to, there are a number of consumer products that offer a great price performance for the home market, and I certainly don’t think this product should be compared to that. I am not necessarily worried that the price point will hurt the product. Widespread deployment is of course something that we would like to see but there are some realities in life, and the realities in life are that leading edge technology tends to adopt very slowly and then accelerate, we’re seeing some very key applications being developed and we’ve had a number of pretty interesting wins, and the one that recently hit the wire was, the government offices in Armenia, believe it or not, actually bought in excess of 40 of these for their own cabinet minister communication purposes.  So that is a very very simple way of looking at it. Value for money… there is an old adage, Kathleen, that says, “You get what you pay for”. we see that in the business grade market, where quite often people will go for what they perceive is cheap, and surprise, surprise, guess what they get? Cheap!  The amount of times we’ve gone back in as a vendor to try and help because they’ve paid a little bit too little, in the first place. And this has happened on many many occasions. So right now, yeah, I guess compared to some of the more consumer grade products, expensive. If you compare it to some of our more business class products in the market, then I’d suggest that we’re on a par.

[VoIPon] Well, that’s a great answer to that question, and what you say is certainly true. You pay too little and then you get into trouble.

[CW] You get what you pay for.

[VoIPon] So, recently Cisco introduced its 9900 Series multimedia media phones. Do you see this product as a competitor?

[CW] Very definitely. Absolutely, and by the way we welcome that too. And, I think there are some absolute factors. Polycom has a very strong brand and it’s well regarded in the telecoms community, particularly with its Polycom VoIP phones. And when we bring out new products, people are interested, and that’s great. I think when you have major names, and Cisco is clearly one of those, in the unified communications market also in spending R & D dollars and investing in launching new technologies, that happen to follow what we’ve done, that kind of vindicates what we’ve been about.

Yes, we will see them in the market as competition, very definitely, I think there will be a degree of segmentation in terms of where 9900 series product fits and where the VVX fits. It’s a big, big, big market out there, and we’ll both win some and we’ll both lose some.  Clearly, we’ve got some key differentiators, primarily we’re in the applications support in the open standards world, and very definitely we do see that [product] as a competitor moving forward.

[VoIPon] We hear that the VVX 1500 now supports Asterisk, which will certainly be of interest to quite a few people in the VoIPon listener community. But I also see that you have other phones that are specifically designed for the Microsoft OCS market. How is Polycom doing in the OCS market and how important do you see it being in the future?

[CW] That’s the $54 Million question isn’t it? So how are we doing in the OCS market specifically? I can’t give you exact details, as we tend to keep that data relatively confidential. I would suggest that we’re seeing the market for CX range of products, which is our Polycom OCS IP Phones focussed product range enjoying three figure growth rates year over year. So that should be a very good sign. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the be all and the end all to the world revenue situation, but it’s good growth rates and good adoption and fantastic support from Microsoft. How important do I see it being in the future? I think that’s an unanswerable. Sadly today, we all know that VoIP is not VoIP is not VoIP. There are different flavours and different routes of doing VoIP. I personally believe that SIP is probably, well not probably, it is the key to doing all this. As standards become ratified, what you will see is a number of different VoIP Phones handset options that all use a base protocol, but have certain specializations. And in this instance, and this isn’t a forward looking prediction and it isn’t a Polycom view, but in this instance, this may very well be an OCS optimised SIP handset in the future. So do I see this market as being important? Do I see what Microsoft is doing in this market as important? Probably more than important, I think it’s critical. I think they are one of the very few companies that is genuinely giving the end user community an open standards choice.

[VoIPon] So are there other products coming from the Polycom VoIP portfolio that VoIPon’s listeners should watch for in 2010?

[CW]Yeah…. and I wish I could talk a lot more about them! We do. We’ve got a fantastic line up in the Polycom VoIP portfolio. So without giving too much away, I think it’s fair to say that being eco-friendly or green is very, very topical right now, so there will be an emphasis on reduction of power consumption, that’ll be one part of it. The way we do that is going to be extremely sexy. I’m not going to give you any more detail than that. Well, let me just explain one thing, that will probably interest your community some what. Touch interfaces, as we are seeing on mobile phones, and other devices are becoming increasingly popular. So trends would dictate that perhaps that kind of interface is taken on board to the more dull business products that we currently enjoy today. There is also a great deal of development going on to standardize our protocol stacks across the voice portfolio for both voice over wireless LAN or Wi-Fi, and also our DECT products, and some IP enablement of some of the other products in terms of our sound infrastructure to become IP enabled. So there is a lot to look forward to.

[VoIPon] So, I have one last question for you and it’s more general. So how do you think these products will fit into the larger telephony market in terms of where you see it going, especially in the EMEA?

[CW]Yeah, that’s a really good question. So let me start by making a statement. And the statement is that we, Polycom, focus exclusively on the business telephony market. Our stance is that we offer end points, and we try and offer the best quality and the best prices on endpoints we can to the market. So how do I think these products will fit into the larger telephony market? Our background is from enterprise, so we tend to deliver enterprise product. So we tend to proliferate enterprise product, what tends to happen is that will filter down to the more price sensitive because we’ll be able to manufacture them more cost effectively.

I think the EMEA market is one of the most complex markets, primarily because I think we as a group of countries, in many cases are a lot more conservative perhaps than some of our Western colleagues in the USA. We say great, and it’s shiny and new, when what I’ve got isn’t broken. And that seems to be a very common thought process when it comes to European businesses. I think what we do with the technology leap that we’re bringing throughout the course of 2010 that we’re giving them very good reason to do that in conjunction with our call control partners.

So, a very convoluted answer to what seemed to be a very simple question. There is no either/or. There is no mobile or you know, wired. There is room for absolutely both types of product. There is no room for either Wi-Fi or DECT. Both of those technologies apply into different environments, so I think we fit the markets that we go for.

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