You probably know Polycom from the ubiquitous triangular telephone, but the company produces all kinds of teleconferencing solutions. You'll find motorized cameras, monitors, microscopes and digital whiteboards in companies eager to ensure their employees can collaborate at a distance. Today, though, the company has a couple of announcements that don't require a closet full of corporate gear, and we swung by Polycom's headquarters in San Jose, California to bring you the rundown.
First, there's the Polycom RealPresence CloudAxis Suite, which is more than just a mouthful. Put simply, it's a web-based teleconferencing package that lets someone inside a corporate firewall send video call invites to their contacts on Skype, Google Talk, and Facebook. Instead of requiring every call participant to have corporate-grade cameras, the system can send an instant message to any old laptop to join in. The host uses a special plug-in that allows them to initiate a call through a firewall, and can share their video, audio, screen and documents with anyone through an Adobe Flash-based interface. Native apps for tablet and phone are on the way.
If your company does have the latest and greatest equipment, though, Polycom will let you work it like a wizard with a new iPad app. Not only will the latest version let you take calls on the iPad, let you literally flick them to a nearby teleconferencing system to transfer to a larger screen, and remotely control cameras too, but the app automatically pairs with those nearby teleconferencing systems using ultrasonic sound. As soon as you get close enough to one of Polycom's latest systems, the iPad's microphone detects a signature sound emitted by the system in the room, and tells the app that it's available for immediate pairing if needed.
While it's pretty clear Polycom doesn't intend to ditch purpose-built communication hardware and its business-to-business focus — the company's introducing new hardware this very week, and the CloudAxis web solution will be aimed at enterprise and infastructure providers when it debuts in Q1 2013 — we're still curious to see how far we could get with the consumer devices and services we use every day.