How many times in life do you get to genuinely start over? How many companies can you name that have moved from success to failure and back?
Apple famously rose again after its near-death experience in the 90s, and that probably represents the gold standard for the phoenix from the ashes trick. But there aren’t many that belong on the list with the inventor of the iPhone.
But former video conferencing golden child LifeSize is trying to walk in Apple’s shoes. Once valued at $400 million, the former hardware company had to watch in horror as the video calling world beneath it shifted to the cloud and left them at risk of becoming obsolete.
Now it’s adopting an if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em philosophy and mounting a comeback as a Software as a Service cloud computing company.
But it’s a very crowded market LifeSize is trying to win over. For a second time.
Video Conferencing Pioneers
Foreshadowing of LifeSize’s near demise can be seen in the first press clippings that announced its acquisition by Logitech in 2009–as an aside, the two have subsequently split.
“The endpoints can be added as soon as I can get a tech on site.” That’s a quote from a testimonial lauding LifeSize’s in-room video conferencing solutions. Seven years later, those words seem terribly old-fashioned.
LifeSize suffered because it got trapped in the corporate data center with its on-site techs, while the rest of the market cut the strings and moved to the cloud.
Sure, there’s still plenty of quality VC hardware and conference room equipment out there that needs a little advanced IT knowledge. However, when Logitech themselves are producing easy to use business video conferencing systems like the Connect and the recently unveiled Skype for Business room systems, the suggestion of waiting for the tech to arrive is marketing madness.
Today, speed and ease of installation, and versatile, scalable potential is all the rage.
Cloud computing has made VC affordable and nimble, and opened up video calling to a greater range of business types and sizes.
Known as Software as a Service (SaaS), it is currently the fastest growing way to do business.
Software As a Video Calling Service
To paraphrase Gartner’s own definition, SaaS is software managed and delivered remotely by one company to many companies, on a pay-per-use or subscription basis.
Any video calling platform you use in your personal life is going to be arranged this way, without the need to install additional hardware, although the social calling world tends to go for quantity and a freemium model where you get basic access for free (Skype) but pay for extra features (Skype for Business).
At an enterprise level though, quality and scalability are far more important. You need to supply a service that can provide a professional level of stability and clarity, while being limber enough to cater for 1-on-1 calls, small huddle rooms, and large corporate events.
LifeSize originally built its value on the back of an innovative way of delivering HD-quality visuals that took up a tiny amount of internet bandwidth. The hopes for their comeback depend on harnessing that same quality, and pairing it with ease of use and versatility.
Video Calling from the Crowded Cloud
By LifeSize’s own admission it is chasing down some big names who have quite a head start in the cloud calling game. Cisco, Citrix, and BlueJeans lead the pack now, and there’s little LifeSize is currently boasting about that those guys don’t already possess.
Mobile and browser compatible, able to link 50 video callers, call recording, click to link, and remote calling are all covered. And Cisco also makes cameras and audio to match LifeSize’s initial expertise.
There’s probably enough growth left in the VC market that simply being competitive is all LifeSize needs to thrive. But it doesn’t seem like there’s enough differentiation in the current product to see it overtake the industry leaders any time soon.
After reducing staff by more than half, and expenditure by almost two-thirds, the company is at least now built in the image of the sleek SaaS crowd. And it is starting to crow about the trajectory of its new platform.
It has a lot of ground to make up, but who doesn’t like a top-dog-turned-underdog getting back into the fight?