SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Telecommunications company Polycom launched an enterprise-grade HD video conferencing application for mobile devices on Tuesday, targeting the growing number of tablets equipped with front-facing cameras.
Available for the iPad, the Motorola Xoom, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the app is built atop Polycom’s “RealPresence Mobile” platform, which allows for connectivity to existing company communications and security infrastructure across multiple video conferencing protocols. While the software has been around for some time in desktop client form, Polycom’s new product is the first tablet-based HD video conferencing product to target the enterprise.
“We’ve fulfilled our promise of extending to the enterprise,” said Polycom VP of mobility Surendra Arora in an interview. “Unlike our competitors, what’s truly impressive about our offering is the HD capability.”
Of course, tablet-based video conferencing applications aren’t new to the mobile space. Skype has long since dominated the video chat space on PCs with its desktop client, and Apple’s FaceTime allows iOS device users to mingle face-to-face for free. Other apps like Fring and Qik offer Android users group chat options.
But these options come with limitations. While Skype’s video chat client is available for a number of Android handsets and tablets, Skype and FaceTime for mobile devices are one-to-one video chatting options (meaning no group chat). And if you want to use FaceTime but aren’t in the iOS device family, you’re out of luck; the application works only amongst iPhone and iPad users.
What’s more, Polycom’s offering boasts VPN client compatibility, keeping conference conversations behind closed firewalls. That’s more reassuring than Skype, which has gone through its share of security snafus over the past year, including a exploit that made user data available to data snoops.
In terms of enterprise-grade services, Polycom has hefty competition in the space. Cisco offers mobile video teleconferencing through WebEx (though it’s hardly a service dedicated to video chatting). “Customers use Webex primarily to share slides, with video being a secondary feature,” said Forrester analyst Phillip Karcher in an interview. “You don’t go through scheduling a WebEx to hold a video call.”
Cisco also launched its Cius enterprise tablet in August, which remains “[the company's] strategy for enabling videoconferencing connectivity from tablets to the rest of the Cisco video portfolio centers,” said Karcher. It’s an entirely different approach from Polycom’s, which essentially brings the service to consumer tablets already in the wild.
That’s not to say that Android and iOS capability isn’t coming for Cisco, especially in the wake of increased competition from Polycom. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Cisco looks at releasing clients on iOS and Android in the future now that that capability was released on the Cius first,” said Karcher. “Likely the level of success of the Cius will impact on how quickly they decide to move in that area.”
Beginning Tuesday, RealPresence Mobile is available free for download in both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market. Currently, the app supports only supports three tablets, but the company plans to expand device support further in the coming months.