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Microsoft, Polycom set Skype for business conferencing series

Microsoft and Polycom introduced a sub-$1,000 video conferencing series for Skype for Business environments at Enterprise Connect 2015.

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Microsoft is joining forces with Polycom to introduce a joint video conferencing offering that...

takes aim at Google's Chromebox for Meetings. The offering, Polycom RoundTable, is designed with Microsoft's Lync-turned Skype for Business environments in mind. Microsoft made the announcement during its Enterprise Connect keynote.

The first device in the collaboration portfolio, the sub-$1,000 Polycom RoundTable 100, is a series of Webcams, a core processing unit, an Intel-based nook and a USB-attached speaker and microphone. Small-to-midsized businesses will have access to voice, video and content collaboration by logging into their Skype for Business account.

The small meeting space is a segment of the video conferencing market that's been historically underserved. With robust room-based systems with all the bells and whistles on one end of the spectrum and desktop video equipment designed with a single user in mind on the other, businesses have struggled to find an inexpensive video product that could be deployed in their smaller spaces. Smaller organizations often don't have the IT resources necessary to successfully launch a full-blown video conferencing strategy. Google exploited that niche when it introduced its smartly-priced $999 Chromebox video conferencing system last year.

Easy setup and controlled by mobile app

The RoundTable 100 can be set up in a small meeting space in 15 minutes, said Ted Colton, Polycom's vice president of alliances. "Businesses can buy the system and plug those peripherals [Webcam, processing unit, and speaker] into any existing monitor," he said.

Upon powering up, the system will instruct the user to download the new Skype Room Systems mobile app from the Android and iOS app stores. Once Skype credentials are entered into the mobile app, the system will be deployed. Next, users will have the option to conduct scheduled Office 365 meetings via the RoundTable 100 system, Colton said.

Even some huddle room video systems sometimes require IT's involvement. These systems can require installation and management expertise. Often, IT has to link room scheduling to active directory systems, and email platforms like Outlook. "That's not what RoundTable does," Colton said. "The system recognizes you have your own calendar, and you need a meeting space."

Users can control RoundTable meetings through the app on their mobile device, as demonstrated during Microsoft's keynote. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Zig Serafin used the RoundTable 100 to enter a video meeting by clicking the "join" button. He controlled audio and video, as well as content alongside video, from his smart device.

Polycom said its CX series of video products, including the Polycom CX800 room-based system and the Polycom CX5100 and CX5500 conferencing systems, will join the RoundTable 100 under the Polycom RoundTable series.

Polycom RoundTable 100 for Skype for Business will be available this summer, through Microsoft's online store.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, senior news writerand follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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We evaluated Google Chromebox for Meetings, and quite frankly found it wanting. The technology was fine, but quite frankly it lacked features we were expecting.
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