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Polycom Buys HP's Halo Videoconferencing Unit

Hewlett Packard said Polycom also will be a partner for telepresence and certain unified communications systems and will make its video applications available for HP's webOS platform.

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Despite the growing popularity of videoconferencing in the enterprise, HP on Wednesday revealed it sold its Visual Collaboration assets along with its Halo system to Polycom for $89 million.

As part of the deal, Polycom said it will establish a strategic relationship in which Polycom will serve as an exclusive partner to HP for telepresence and certain video unified communications (UC) systems, including both resale and internal HP deployments. The two companies also have agreed to make Polycom's video applications available for HP's webOS platform, which is the mobile operating system that HP won when it acquired Palm in 2010 and will deploy in a number of forthcoming smartphones and tablet computers.

The deal combines HP's networking scale and global reach with Polycom's expertise in videoconferencing. HP is the world's largest technology company based on revenue. The deal creates "a path for Polycom and HP to offer customers an end-to-end UC solution with an unparalleled user experience, interoperability, investment protection, and ease of deployment," Andrew Miller, Polycom president and CEO, said in a statement.

Forrester Research analyst Henry Dewing said his first reaction was the deal was counterintuitive, since videoconferencing is becoming more popular as part of an enterprise collaboration platform. However, Dewing said the more he thought about it, the more it made sense because in the enterprise, HP is more about the data center while Polycom is more about the end user.

"HP's role in the industry is that of infrastructure provider and not of end solution provider," said Dewing. To be sure, HP is big on desktop and laptop computers in the enterprise, but its main enterprise communications and collaboration play is running Microsoft Lync for office communications on HP servers or running Cisco Unified Communications Manager on HP servers. Going forward, Polycom will distribute Visual Collaborations systems to run on, presumably, HP servers.

Also notable, said Dewing, is HP selling its Halo high-definition videoconferencing line to Polycom. Halo was introduced by HP at about the same time Cisco introduced TelePresence for videoconferencing with an image so high in resolution that people on each end of a TelePresence meeting appear to be in the same room even though they may be time zones apart. But Dewing said HP has done relatively little to promote Halo.

"The marketing and selling has been a weak link in that organization," he said, adding that Polycom may improve sales of Halo because its channel partner network is focused on the telecommunications sector while HP's is focused more on the enterprise data center sector.

Also Wednesday, Polycom announced the creation of the Open Visual Communications Consortium (OVCC), which is intended to expand the use of visual communications by improving interoperability between different technology platforms and across multiple service providers, including Verizon, AT&T, and overseas carriers such as Orange, Telefonica, and Telstra.

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