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How cloud videoconferencing turned LifeSize around

By Chris Talbot

The demand for videoconferencing is increasing at a rapid rate, mostly because of consumer tools like Skype and Apple FaceTime, but that doesn’t mean every aspect of videoconferencing is growing. In the case of LifeSize, its leaders found they had to reinvent the company over the last couple of years, shifting from a hardware focus to a software one.

As videoconferencing moved onto consumer devices, what companies like LifeSize found was the traditional complex and expensive videoconferencing systems weren’t of interest to as many enterprises anymore. With a shift affecting interest in its larger systems, LifeSize moved to a more consumer-friendly system around a cloud Software-as-a-Service.

“The notion of making a video call is being embedded into mainstream life and family behavior,” LifeSize CEO Craig Malloy told FierceEnterpriseCommunications. “That has driven a lot more demand for video communication in the office.”

The problem was that the consumer applications were simple to use and inexpensive, but that wasn’t really the case of enterprise videoconferencing tools. It’s a very different market than it was a decade ago when LifeSize, Polycom and Cisco focused on providing big, pricey conference room systems.

For awhile, telepresence was on the tip of these vendors’ tongues, but Malloy said it was a market that never really emerged.

“It never really took off. Cisco made a go of it for a little while because of the relationships with some of the largest global companies in the world. Outside of the Global 1000 companies, there’s no market for those products,” Malloy said.

LifeSize didn’t bet the farm on telepresence, as Malloy noted they saw early on there was only a limited market for them. But that doesn’t mean LifeSize didn’t need to change its own product strategy with the shifts in the way people used videoconferencing. That’s how the LifeSize Cloud offering came to be. LifeSize designed the cloud-based videoconferencing service with consumers in mind, aiming to make it as simple to use as Skype or FaceTime while still providing some of the features of the likes of WebEx and GoToMeeting.

Malloy and I spoke through the LifeSize Cloud web application, and it appears the company has succeeded. In fact, it’s so successful that Malloy said he doesn’t have a desk phone anymore. Every call he makes at the office uses the LifeSize Cloud application – and it’s easy to make calls and pull others into them without needing to set up a conference call line.

If you ever asked where your video phone was, Skype and FaceTime (and other competing apps) were probably well-received when they launched. But within the enterprise, those apps aren’t as useful. LifeSize Cloud now fills that role. And it appears to be gaining traction, as it’s being used by more than 1,500 businesses a year after launch.

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