Microsoft and Polycom, together with Project Aqua

Microsoft and Polycom made some pretty interesting announcements recently, building upon what I think is the most tightly integrated third party products that work with Skype for Business.  Polycom has long had endpoints both for audio and video that have worked with Microsoft since Live Communication Server. Over that past few years we have seen more and more products from Polycom as well as improvements on interoperability with existing products.  Personally I have even seen a change in Polycom and working with their sales and technical resources being much more technical and strategically aligned when it comes to Microsoft solutions.

In addition to some of the cool new products like the Polycom Trio to the improved CX5500 (once known as the Roundtable), there are really powerful products that end users do not always know exist. Some of these products are what is making a big change in the integration options for Skype for Business.  Polycom Real Connect is a product that allows customers to leverage their existing investment in video conferencing end points and “provide a single video collaboration workflow”.  This means that customers can continue to use their legacy a/v endpoint in a Skype for Business environment and give each user endpoint the experience they are used to.  From Polycom’s website:

  • Native Outlook calendaring integration (no Polycom plugins)
  • One Touch Dial app allowing Cisco and Polycom endpoints to connect to Polycom MCU with a single click-to-dial
  • Enhanced multipoint video experience for Skype for Business clients, providing additional remote sites and seamless multi-screen view for immersive telepresence
  • Bi-directional content sharing (desktop, program share) across Skype for Business clients and video endpoints, shown as high quality content stream

These capabilities have either not been available or have been available in limited functionality.  But the most important aspect of Real Connect is that it is supported by both Polycom and Microsoft.  I will stress how important it is that both companies support any product you decide to integrate so that support is available from both and in many cases the products have been properly tested together (see TechNet for more detail).

Until a recent announcement Real Connect could be deployed on premises or by a hosting partner.  With Microsoft’s announcement of Project “Aqua” these capabilities will be coming to Office 365 so that they are available to any customers from small to large enterprise.  We are not exactly sure what this will look like as it has not been released as of the writing of this post, but all messaging seems to be pointing to this functionality to be released in Office 365 before the end of CY16.


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