Polycom, Microsoft: Unified Communications for Outlook
It’s a thing of beauty when two major vendors collaborate to offer a solution that actually provides such value that it can practically sell itself. In theory, Polycom and Microsoft just may have done exactly that. The UC vendor and software behemoth have joined forces to offer Polycom Conferencing for Outlook, a unified communications service that integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook to incorporate voice and video conferencing into meetings. Here are the details.
Assuming the effort works as advertised, the nifty application enables users to attach shared materials such as presentations and notes to the meeting request, keeping all facets of the meeting, from initial request to after-meeting follow-up, in one neat package.
“This solution adds video, recording and streaming capabilities, as well as content into the meeting, so when participants get an invite they know they can get video,” said John Antanaitis, vice president of marketing at Polycom. “Traditionally users have to track the call-in information and initiate an action, be it accepting or declining the invite and then calling in to a conference number or walking to the meeting. Now they receive a simple meeting notification and when the reminder for the meeting pops up, the users have the opportunity within the reminder to join via a voice client or video client depending on the device. This is all initiated by Outlook calendar.”
Users also can access content for the meeting via the same invite, and new content can be added at any time by going into the Outlook invite. “Later, after the meeting, users can go into the Outlook calendar and have all the links to the meeting and the content. It’s an intelligent, integrated experience,” he added.
Polycom Conferencing for Outlook works with Polycom hardware including CMA Desktop, HDX 4000 and HDX 8000. It also also enables conference “smart rooms” by displaying the Microsoft Outlook calendar and scheduled meetings on the room’s conferencing display, which also shows reminders for upcoming meetings and allows conference participants to join a meeting simply by clicking a single “join now” button.
Such a solution is really a long time coming. This is one of those head-slapper, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas that simplifies meetings to the point where there is really no excuse for employee ignorance. Being out of the office or ill are no longer valid excuses, since all the information is readily available via the meeting invite.
And it’s a technology that should be a gimme for solution providers. Any customer interested in unified communications or currently utilizing a videoconferencing environment will see the value in Conferencing for Outlook. Polycom says the technology will be available in the second quarter; until then, solution providers may want to continue priming the UC pump.