Tely Labs' new Skype appliance addresses underserved SMB market

Skype is free, but it suffers from quality and interoperability issues. Video conferencing startup Tely Labs offers a solution for the SMB market.

One of the most traditionally underserved -- if not wholly ignored -- video conferencing market segments has been small- and medium-sized businesses. But at the Enterprise Connect 2013 trade show earlier this week in Orlando, one desktop video conferencing vendor said it plans to offer business-class products at compelling prices.

Tely Labs, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup that partners with Skype, announced a sub-$1,000 video calling appliance -- telyHD Enterprise Edition -- to bridge the gap between free and high-end video conferencing systems.

The cost of video conferencing has been a discussion stopper for collaboration for a long time.

Ira Weinstein

Senior analyst and partner, Wainhouse Research

"The cost of video conferencing has been a discussion-stopper for collaboration for a long time. That's why … Skype has been popular," said Ira Weinstein, senior analyst and partner at Duxbury, Mass.-based Wainhouse Research.

Tely Labs initially catered to consumers with products that sought to improve the quality of Skype-based video calls, but the company noticed many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) had started to use Skype for corporate desktop video collaboration.

"While this collaboration is free, it's not good for room[-based] systems," said Dave Crilley, Tely Labs' vice president of enterprise marketing.

Last November, the company forayed into the business space with its telyHD Business Edition Skype appliance. Four months later, the company's new Enterprise Edition supports point-to-point video, audio and screen sharing with any Skype-enabled device, for up to six people.

Through Tely Labs' large network of resellers -- including Amazon, BestBuy and Newegg -- the Enterprise Edition appliance sells for $250. The company's partnership with cloud-based video conferencing provider Blue Jeans Network ensures interoperability between the appliance and all grades of on- or off-premises SIP-based video conferencing systems, including Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg and LifeSize.

While price isn't the primary barrier to video conferencing adoption, high-end video conferencing systems have led to careful and conservative video deployments reserved for executive board meetings. Many of these room-based video conferencing systems can't natively interoperate with desktop video applications. 

Weinstein said a product like Tely Labs' "will liberate video conferencing from the executive board room."

Video conferencing compromises for convenience

However, the palatable price point comes with some functionality tradeoffs. Rather than telepresence-grade 1080p HD, the system runs at 720p HD. The difference, Weinstein said, is practically negligible because users can still achieve a good collaboration experience.

"With 720p, you can see I shaved this morning. With 1080p, you can see I shaved at 7:22 this morning," he quipped.

The video resolution sacrifice is offset by its sleek, small design and easy-to-use features. Users can receive video calls from Apple or Android devices and can stream documents or presentations to HD TVs wirelessly. 

"It really enhances the investment that [businesses have] made, as opposed to trying to sell something that conflicts with their already existing system," said Tely Labs' Crilley. "It makes people look smarter for having invested already in this technology."

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