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Lifesize, a company specialized in business video conferencing, is rolling out Lifesize Cloud, a new product that is designed to make it easier for workers and contractors to join a video call from any computing platform.

Most enterprise video conferencing systems have to be much more aware about security and privacy than your typical Skype-like application. The downside of this focus is that it creates a lot of friction during setup and even day-to-day usage. Many systems have to be used within a secure and closed network, which makes it difficult for contractors to join. Other systems are not compatible or inter-operable.

I met with Lifesize CEO Craig Malloy for a live demonstration of this product. The most interesting part to me was the general ease of use. The new user interface is clean and simple, while providing all the functions of a classic enterprise video conferencing system such as finding conference room, groups or specific people.

Lifesize is built around the idea that it will serve professional users from SMBs to large enterprises. The SMB part concerns the video-conferencing setup with one of the in-room cameras such as the Lifesize 220 or Lifesize Icon. If you have not used a professional video conferring system before, the best comparison that I can draw is with set top boxes: Lifesize would be like a Tivo box, while many of the others are more like your plain Cable Provider box in terms of user interface.

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It gets more interesting when Lifesize users want to communicate with people that are not part of the same company. The system lets anyone install a Lifesize client on Smartphones/tablets, PCs or Macs. From there, one needs a Lifesize user account, but that’s it. Because it’s a paid service, the call initiator must have a paid account, but everyone else in the conference call gets in for free. On paper, may solutions claim to do this, but this is where Lifesize’s better user-interface scores some serious points.

"THIS IS WHERE LIFESIZE'S BETTER USER-INTERFACE SCORES SOME SERIOUS POINTS"  

Lifesize started out with the ability to have on-site servers, but it is clear that not every customer wants to manage those, or even have the IT resources for this. A cloud service lowers the barrier of entry and basically opens a larger market for Lifesize.

Of course, there are many free video-calling services, but Craig Malloy isn’t worried by this. He told me that every free video service actually helps Lifesize by promoting video communications in general. When a group of individuals needs the kind of conferencing the company offers, he is confident that his solution is more competitive. The consumer video market is well served (and hard to get in), but he thinks that enterprises have unique needs that his company can address.

Although this may seem expensive from a consumer’s point of view, the Lifesize offering is actually potent. When I compared it with another service that I also like, Google’s Chromebox for Meetings, I noticed that they don’t address the same market.

Since Chromebox for Meetings is not compatible with non-Google video calls systems, it’s best for companies that are building out a new infrastructure. Even then, one could make the argument that you need to communicate with the rest of the world and be compatible with Cisco, Polycom and other existing providers. On the other hand, Lifesize Cloud is more expansive, but offers most features that video-conferencing customers typically ask for. It is compatible with other systems, can be installed on-site etc…

Changes like Lifesize Cloud is going to disrupt the professional video conferencing market which was dominated by very large players with very expensive solutions. The reality is that technological progress makes it possible to build solutions that are much more cost-efficient and time-efficient. Lifesize Cloud improves the existing line where it matters the most: better user interface and ease of deployment.

Filed in Photo-Video. Read more about video call.

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