Plantronics and Polycom’s New Name Defines its New Approach to Video

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Plantronics and Polycom's new name reflect their focus on a new type of VC.

The first blush of our love affair with the internet in the 1990s brought with it a new set of buzzwords. Hardware, software, and digital products and companies were described in weighty-sounding terms culled from the fundamental concepts of this new world.

The companies and products that captured the imagination were named for computers (com), electronics (tronic), the internet (net), digital technologies (digi, tech), and speed and scale (hyper, super, mega).

It was a trend summarized by the fictional startup company of real 90s hero Homer Simpson: CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet. Today, the internet has lost its overwhelming, monolithic weight. Digital technologies now greet us with soothing voices, fit in our pockets, and come with gentle, lowercase “i” names.

If you’re a holdover from those heady early days, it’s time to change your approach.

That’s what Plantronics and Polycom have done. After their recent merger and shift in business approach, the companies have settled on a friendlier, more casual name.

Poly.

Plantronics and Polycom’s new name reflects its new attitude and the 21st-century way of thinking about digital communication.

A $2 Billion Video Gamble

Audio specialist Plantronics has in fact been with us since the 1960s. Back then, it provided audio communication solutions to NASA and pioneered a range of headphone technologies. It remained in the audio-only realm until last year when it paid $2 billion to buy Polycom, one of the most established names in the video conferencing market.

For Plantronics, the appeal was the ability to find new customers for its audio solutions in an age of visual communication. As video becomes more ubiquitous and digital technologies merge to make audio-only conference calling look more and more redundant, Plantronics has taken a can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach. Now it gets to leverage Polycom’s visual prowess to sustain its traditional line of audio interests.

Now, video conferencing systems are cloud-based and the hardware often sold as mix-and-matchable accessories.

Polycom, too, needed change. The once dominant on-premises hardware supplier found it was losing ground to a new breed of video calling solution: cloud-based video calling platforms that worked in conjunction with simple plug-and-play video conferencing hardware. Under this new model, video hosting and connection responsibilities were taken off-site into the hands of software-based subscription services, such as the freshly minted tech unicorn Zoom.

That reduced the need for complex, full-stack video hardware systems that required an IT team to manage and an on-site codec. Now, video conferencing systems are cloud-based and the hardware often sold as mix-and-matchable accessories, purpose-built for mobile workforces and a variety of modern video calling settings, such as huddle rooms.

Plantronics’ and Polycom’s New Name

And so, we arrive at Poly. Nearly a year after the acquisition, Plantronics unveiled its new name as the first step toward bringing existing customers together under a merged banner.

In announcing the name, Plantronics Senior Director Chris Thorson said that Poly–a prefix meaning “many”–signified a commitment to “provide multiple modes of communication.” Cynically speaking, that explanation sounds more like a nice coincidence than a grand vision (Poly sounds better than Plant, after all), but at least the company didn’t go for some double-capped amalgam like PolyTronics.

Polycom’s focus will now likely be on supplying component pieces of video conferencing hardware as part of a cloud-based solution.

There is validity to the “many” claim, though. Instead of persisting with Polycom’s previously monolithic delivery of on-premises video conferencing systems, the focus will now likely be on supplying component pieces of video conferencing hardware as part of a cloud-based solution.

So, Plantronics and Polycom have a new name and a new attitude. Will the merged companies explore new markets and business models? Such a move would expose Poly to a new range of market forces and competitors. Poly’s future direction remains to be seen, but at least the first step seems like a positive one: Poly is an approachable, non-threatening, and modern-sounding name.

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