Plantronics' $2 Billion Polycom Buy Gets Mixed Reviews

Plantronics said buying Polycom positions it to capture additional opportunities across the nearly $40 billion UCC industry.

Edward Gately, Senior News Editor

March 29, 2018

6 Min Read


Edward Gately

**Editor’s Note: Read our list of 20 top UCaaS providers offering products and services via channel partners or here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting merger and acquisition news from February.**

The latest M&A to rock the channel is headset-maker Plantronics buying Polycom – which a private equity firm bought in fall 2016 – in a cash and stock transaction valued at $2 billion.

Plantronics said the combination positions it to capture additional opportunities across the nearly $40 billion unified communications and collaboration (UCC) industry driven by “innovation in video and the ubiquity of audio, building growth opportunities through data analytics and insight services.”

The transaction has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close by the end of the third quarter. Plantronics said the combined company will offer its partners a “stronger business proposition by removing the costs of managing complexity.”

“With the addition of Polycom’s solutions across video, audio and collaboration, we will be able to deliver a comprehensive portfolio of communications and collaboration touch points and services to our customers and channel partners,” said Joe Burton, Plantronics’ president and CEO. “This will put Plantronics in an ideal position to solve for today’s enterprise collaboration requirements while capitalizing on market opportunities associated with the evolving, intelligent enterprise.”

Frank Baker, founder and managing partner of Siris Capital, which bought Polycom, said his firm recognizes the “incredible opportunity” in UC and has been focused on building momentum in the industry for several years.


451 Research’s Raul Castanon-Martinez

News of the acquisition has analysts talking. Raul Castanon-Martinez, 451 Research’s senior analyst of workforce collaboration, said Polycom has been a leading provider of audio and video conferencing technology for more than 25 years, “but it’d be inaccurate to discount it as a legacy provider on its way out.”

“Even though it experienced a consistent decline in revenue in the last three to five years, Polycom maintains a dominant presence in the enterprise,” he said. “Furthermore, in the last two years it underwent a major effort to update its product line in order to stay up to date with emerging trends and market requirements. This puts the combined company in a very good position. The dynamics in the communications and collaboration space indicate that demand for audio and video conferencing technology will explode in the next five years, resulting from the transition to cloud-based communications, the growing relevance of mobility and the impact these trends will have in how employees communicate and collaborate with each other.”

This deal represents a “significant opportunity” for Plantronics/Polycom to replace existing legacy hardware with the new product lines from both companies, Castanon-Martinez said. The combined company will result in a broad portfolio of complementary products and services and “one of the largest market footprints for vendors in the space,” he said.


Jon Arnold

Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates, said by buying Polycom, Plantronics is “looking for some insurance or protection with everyone else consolidating” and “they want to make sure they have a viable play going forward.”

“On paper it looks like an interesting fit because they both are endpoint product for the most part,” he said. “They’re not the UC solution providers or the contact-center platform providers, but all of those players use their products. Polycom has all the phones and video endpoints, and the conferencing pieces for office-based collaboration, and Plantronics certainly has the contact center covered and anywhere else in the enterprise where headsets have a role to play.”

Arnold said he’s not so sure of …

… this huge opportunity being pitched by combining the two companies.

“Polycom was very tightly aligned with Microsoft as a software vendor and Plantronics is more closely aligned with Cisco, and in this marketplace it’s very hard to be dating both,” he said. “They’re both too big, too strong; they cooperate when they need to, but that could create some conflicts with vendor loyalty.”

Cisco recently purchased BroadSoft, which has a “huge base of customers, so obviously a big channel for their products,” Arnold said. If BroadSoft goes with Cisco, “that may jeopardize a lot of Polycom telephony business because the BroadSoft customer base may find themselves getting pushed into using Cisco phones as opposed to Polycom phones,” he said.

“BroadSoft is a really good partner for Polycom as is Microsoft, whereas Cisco is a very strong partner for Plantronics,” he said. “I’m not sure how that’s going to play out. These companies play with almost everybody to be fair, so it’s hard to say how much of an issue that’s going to be. The channel obviously is the big challenge here because that’s the route to market for both of these companies, and this is always a big one that comes up when these companies merge, is what happens with branding and what happens with the channel relationships, and we’ll see whether this creates minimal or problematic overlap.”

Alaa Saayed, prinicipal analyst at Frost and Sullivan, said the acquisition “certainly fits Plantronics like a puzzle piece” due to several reasons.

“Although Plantronics is well aware that more businesses are moving to a software communications only environment, different companies are still opting for IP desktop phones, especially open SIP phones,” he said. “Polycom has not only been the leader of open SIP phones, but has been noticeably increasing its device shipment in the hosted/cloud-communications space. Polycom’s broad and leading portfolio of open SIP desktop phones definitely enriches Plantronics’ endpoints offering by giving customers a wider choice for personal communications.”

Also, Plantronics gains a stronger overall endpoints position within the Microsoft ecosystem, Saayed said.

“Polycom has been the most deployed IP phone brand within the Microsoft ecosystem, while Plantronics has been shipping millions of headset tops within Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business/Teams environments,” he said. “The acquisition can certainly strengthen the company’s overall endpoints leadership within the Microsoft ecosystem. And finally, the acquisition will certainly strengthen Plantronics’ overall channel partnerships (specially with A/V contractors, solution advisors, and system integrators), enrich Plantronics’ growing software-as-a-service and cloud management portfolio, and growing, in general, its professional headset target market by leveraging Polycom’s existing installed base of more than 400,000 businesses.”

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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