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Polycom Gives Microsoft a Bridge Between Skype and Cisco

Polycom, a maker of video conferencing solutions and a major collaborator with Microsoft in the unified communications (UC) space, this week unveiled a new solution that promises to widen the reach of Microsoft's Skype for Business product.

The new Polycom RealConnect for Office 365 solution, announced at the Enterprise Connect conference taking place this week in Orlando, Fla., and expected to become generally available next month, allows Office 365 users with Skype for Business to add Cisco devices to their meetings.

The announcement has the potential to significantly extend the reach of Skype for Business Online given that Cisco is the leading provider of VoIP phones and PBXes, with a formidable video conferencing business. The move to allow Skype users to connect using other vendors' conferencing equipment marks an important step by Microsoft and Polycom.

"We want to make sure you have a great video experience regardless of what platform your users are on, and regardless of what platform you develop on, that extends across a number of different platforms," said Ron Markezich, corporate vice president of Office 365 at Microsoft, during his keynote address at the conference on Wednesday.

Delanda Coleman, a Microsoft product marketing manager, joined Markezich on stage to demonstrate RealConnect's interoperability capability. "Now any legacy Cisco VTC [video teleconferencing system] can join the Skype for Business meeting without any problems," Coleman said.

Polycom, which is the leading provider of Skype for Business handsets and video conferencing systems, has not ruled out the possibility of connecting with devices, software and services from other vendors besides Cisco. It's also reasonable to assume that Microsoft will certify bridging solutions from other partners, which could lead to greater Skype for Business use over the long haul.

"Polycom RealConnect for Office 365 simplifies the video world by connecting Skype for Business online users with those using other video systems," said Mary McDowell, Polycom's CEO, in Markezich's blog post announcing the Skype for Business upgrades. "This cloud service protects customers' investments in existing video systems as it allows these users to join a Skype for Business meeting with a single click."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.