While consumer video chat solutions like Google Hangouts and Apple’s Facetime have evolved by leaps and bounds over the past few years, the same can’t be said for the enterprise offerings.
Businesses are still stuck with lackluster solutions like Cisco’s WebEx, or trying to coordinate their employees around consumer video chat products.
Logitech’s Lifesize division, which is focused entirely on video conferencing for businesses, is taking aim at this problem with its latest product, Lifesize Cloud. It offers high-definition video chats with up to 25 people at once; support for desktop and mobile devices; and, most importantly, it runs entirely on the cloud, so there’s no hardware to set up or manage.
Lifesize Cloud’s innovations may seem quaint when compared directly to the features of consumer offerings over the past few years. Google Hangouts has offered 10-person group video chats for some time now, and it doesn’t take much to start a video call from your phone. But Lifesize CEO Craig Malloy tells me that it’s much more difficult to bring those sorts of features to businesses.
“When you get to the scale and essential business-class features that businesses demand, what vendors have been doing is trying to build ever more complex and powerful on-premise hardware infrastructure to handle firewall traversal, directory, and multi-person calling,” Malloy said.
Lifesize Cloud, on the other hand, can be deployed across a 500-person company by a single employee in under an hour. It costs $25 per person a month and is initially available in North America, Norway, Switzerland, and other European countries.
In a brief live demonstration, Lifesize CTO Casey King was able to connect with several Lifesize employees at the company’s Austin headquarters within a few seconds. Video quality looked crisp and clear — leagues beyond what I’ve seen from WebEx and GotoMeeting. Since Lifesize Cloud integrates with business directories, it was also easy to find people to connect with.
Lifesize Cloud users can also create virtual meeting rooms that are accessible by anyone in the organization, which solves the perennial problem of inviting people to the correct video conference (an issue I’ve often had with Google Hangouts). You can also invite people from outside your company to a Lifesize video chat.
Logitech acquired Lifesize for $405 million in 2009, but the unit has remained mostly quiet until today. Logitech also took a $211 million charge last year due to a purported slowdown in the enterprise video chat industry (which was likely hurt by the rise of feature-rich consumer video chat).
Lifesize has spent the past nine months developing its new cloud product, but Malloy tells me he’s envisioned moving to the cloud since he started the company 11 years ago. After taking a break for two years to start business collaboration company Bloomfire, Malloy returned to Lifesize when he saw the opportunity to push the business video chat market forward.
With $120 million in annual revenue and around 400 employees, Malloy describes Lifesize as “big enough to scale … but small enough to be nimble.”