A year ago, Polycom dismissed rival Cisco Systems’ newly introduced immersive conferencing interoperability protocol as a tool to dominate the crucial issue of making telepresence systems for larger companies work together.

Now Polycom officials are ready to embrace Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP), saying that adoption of the protocol in their products is part of their larger UCEverywhere strategy. The initiative is designed to let consumers and businesses of all sizes that use Polycom technology collaborate with others regardless of the platforms they use.

Enabling Cloud Telepresence Interoperability

Innovations in Polycom’s UC Intelligent Core platform also make it easier for service providers to offer cloud-based, open UC (unified communications) telepresence services, according to the company. In announcing the company’s support for Cisco’s TIP February 9, Polycom CEO Andrew Miller said the move will not only help Polycom users, but also customers of his larger rival.

“Cisco customers have told us for years that they’ve been imprisoned by a closed telepresence platform that builds a wall around their UC environment and keeps out non-Cisco users. Today, all that changes,” Miller said in a statement.

“With its unparalleled support of open standards, the Polycom UC Intelligent Core solution liberates these customers and gives them more options for collaborating and expanding their UC environments than ever before, without having to sacrifice their existing systems. Breakthroughs like this are fundamental to our vision of UCEverywhere,” he wrote.

Polycom plans to bring support for TIP to its products starting in the second quarter.

Cisco introduced TIP, which company officials have said is designed to enable multiscreen telepresence interoperability, in January 2010, and at the time said that several vendors, including LifeSize Communications and Radvision, had signed on. In addition, Cisco last year began putting TIP support into products gained through its acquisition of telepresence vendor Tandberg.

However, Polycom officials said they had little interest in TIP, arguing that they were wary of any protocol push being promoted by such a dominant vendor. They also noted that there had been other standards, such as H.264 and H.239, that had been created though independent bodies for single-display video conferencing, and said the same third-party approach could be used for multidisplay telepresence systems.

Cisco officials said when introducing TIP that their intent was to move the proposed standard to a third-party body, and in April 2010, the company turned it over to the IMTC (International Multimedia Teleconferencing Consortium), which will manage it as an industry standard.

Having Polycom join the fold is important, given that together, Cisco and Polycom control more than 80 percent of the worldwide telepresence market. Cisco officials applauded the decision. They stressed that TIP is an open protocol, not a proprietary standard managed by Cisco.

“We are pleased to hear that Polycom is joining other companies in adopting the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol [TIP],” David Hsieh, vice president of emerging technologies for Cisco, said in a statement. “We believe that there is market transition to the pervasive adoption of video, and customers want interoperability without compromise. The value for customers is to enable any-to-any multiscreen interoperability so that there are more people to talk to.”

Jeffrey Burt

Jeffrey Burt is a senior editor for eWEEK and contributor to TechWeekEurope

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