LifeSize Tech Day - Quick Thoughts and Cool Photos

Earlier this week, I attended a Tech Day with LifeSize at their Austin, TX HQ. Technically it was a day and a half, but y'know, everything is bigger in Texas, right?

I love Austin - just search my posts here to see why - and this being my first in-depth exposure to LifeSize, I wasn't sure what to expect. As a rule of thumb, I don't love too many companies, but I sure came away liking this bunch a whole lot. I was part of a small group of "influencers" at this event, and we got a pretty good close-up of their products, their people and their roadmap.

My week has been pretty jammed and only have time here for some flash impressions and photos that I think tell an interesting story. I'll have more to say in the next week or so, including my thoughts on how I now see the video conferencing vendor landscape shaping up. That piece will run as my monthly column on UCStrategies, and in light of yesterday's funding news for BlueJeans, this space won't stay still for long.

This brings me to my elevator pitch takeaways. As you may know, Logitech is the parent company of LifeSize, and as we learned, having a B2B company owned by a consumer-focused company cuts both ways. When you're a Tier 2 player, the pedigree and financial heft of a big name like Logitech does come into play when trying to win those bigger deals. On the other hand, there can be some challenges getting them to understand the realities of your business, and it's not so easy to create magical synergies - just ask Microsoft about that with Skype.

As a sidebar, LifeSize isn't Logitech's first foray into this space. I've been following the comms market for a while now, and about 5 years ago, they acquired SightSpeed for $30 million, and I'm told it's still in the mix somewhere. I don't expect you to know or remember that, but I was an early follower of SightSpeed, and if you care to know more, here's one of my posts about them. There's a reason why companies are acquired, and clearly, Logitech sees a long-term play here.

Hey - did you catch that? Clear. See. No? Their desktop video application - ClearSea. Nevermind. Well, Sheldon Cooper would have gotten it, and of course he would have chided me on the difference in spelling and only given me half-credit for being half-clever (how's that for a subtle homage to Texas, btw?). Bazinga!

So, LifeSize soldiers on, with great home-grown technology, and they showed us how they've been a pioneer in this market. Of course, that's no guarantee of success, but they sure know this business from the bottom up. The company is probably doing about as well as can be expected, and they're certainly not alone among video vendors trying to figure this market out. Video is the most touchy-feely of all communications technologies, and finding the right balance between price and end user experience is the Holy Grail all these vendors are after.

Complicating this is the fact that video is a hybrid of product and service, and their room-based systems fall squarely into that category. Going back to my MBA Marketing days, this is probably the biggest challenge in all of marketing - short of trying to create demand for something where none has previously existed. It's much easier to market one or the other, but products and services together is very tricky, especially where most decision makers struggle to see the business value of video.

There are lots of players making a go of just selling one or the other, and while this market is still finding its legs, I believe there's plenty of room for what LifeSize offers. We heard lots about how well they understand the opportunity, and I'm onside with their thinking. They certainly know how to make the technology work, and while their user interface needs to be more intuitive, the big challenge is getting their value proposition out there and better understood. Video has to be experienced for best effect, and it's pretty hard to sell people on the merits of a 55" HD monitor from a demo on your PC screen.

Most video vendors struggle with this, so LifeSize is hardly alone. Bigger picture, though, is the shift happening to the cloud and virtualized services which looks poised to redefine video altogether. Things have come a long way from when Polycom owned this business - something LifeSize's management team knows a lot about - and I'd say we're in the midst of another cycle of creative destruction. I'm not sure where that leaves LifeSize, but if they play their cards right, they'll be fine. That said, I don't know what the right game is to be playing right now, and that's where I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Stay tuned, more posts to come! Until then, let's shift modes as well as technologies and have a look below.

Just one of many testing areas we saw during our lab tour. Every interop permutation you can imagine is going on here, so if you want best-of-breed, LifeSize is pretty solid.

Fun, wow - the audio testing chamber - it's so quiet in here you get a headache hearing yourself think. This is a great example of doing their engineering in-house, and with lots of trial and error, this is how you build the perfect speakerbox for conferencing. R&D is definitely a core asset, but I'm pretty sure you only get these things in black. No harm in stealing a page from Apple -why not other colors?

I know - crappy picture - room was dark and my battery was on fumes. It's not a microwave oven or a TV, but let me connect the dots with the next few pix.

What's this? A PC monitor next to the mystery box above. It's hard to see, but this is a design rendering of car chassis and the wheels. Is this starting to make sense now?

Now picture Bob Barker saying... "it's a brand new carrrrrr!!!" Much smaller than a Fiat, and it doesn't come with an Italian family of 3 (if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this brilliantly funny commercial - it's just 3 minutes - but only after you finish here, ok?).
No really, it's not a bar of soap - this tiny car has wheels that turn and pistons that go up and down!

And gears and a crankshaft underneath to make everything go - wow!

Figured this out yet? 3-D printing, yup. I want one of those. Maybe LifeSize is in the wrong business, or this is a hint of what their real roadmap is. I'm sure with all that engineering in-house, they've got some other things cooking, and I doubt that means making a 6 cylinder version or offering a metallic neon green finish.