Whatever Happened to Polycom? And Is Adobe the Next Zoom?

Remember when Polycom and Cisco were always mentioned in the same sentence? Seems like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, huh?

Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions from GartnerDo you remember when we were all saying, “Why don’t Polycom and Cisco just make their stuff interoperable?” Well, that was what led to their ultimate demise — in the hardware space, that is. In only six years, Polycom has gone from one of the two videoconferencing market leaders to nearly oblivion. Check out last quarter’s Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions graphics — Polycom isn’t even listed. All the other biggies are, though — including Cisco, its former videoconferencing rival.

What the heck happened?

Well, Zoom happened. Then, Microsoft (i.e., Skype and Teams) and Google. Now the newbie who’s gaining a lot of traction is Adobe with its Connect application. In just over a year since adding video, it’s come from nothing to top-eight in most surveys.

Actually Adobe Connect has been around for nearly 16 years. Originally called Macromedia Breeze, it started as sort of a PowerPoint Plug-in. I even used to use it years and years ago. But it’s recently (since the release of Connect 10) morphed into a collaboration suite including videoconferencing. Yes, it’s designed to compete with Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Cisco Webex — it’s a full collaboration suite that includes video, audio, screen-sharing, polls, chat, Q&A and document sharing. Right now, video is limited to 720p but that’s only because this is the newest feature of Adobe Connect and they tell me that they’ll be adding 1080p and even 4K in 2020.

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Here’s a video explaining Adobe Connect:

But back to Polycom. Where’d they go and what happened? As the industry was rapidly moving from hardware-based codecs to software- and cloud-based codecs, Polycom decided to (mostly) evolve into a room accessory company, providing everything from mic arrays, speaker bars, web cams and souped-up speakerphones. In fact, its Poly G5700 is a kit that includes a camera, a H.265 4K-compatible video codec (yes, they still make hardware codecs) with native Zoom integration, speakerphone and mic array. Launched at Zoomtopia, this is the company’s flagship product. It’s Poly Studio in a simple add-on plug-and-play USB-based all-in-one camera, mic and speaker, aimed at products like the Yamaha CS700 and the Crestron Flex.

But back to what happened, again. Polycom suffered from a few years of not-sure-what-to-do syndrome as it tried to decide if it wanted to be a hardware-based or a cloud-based company. Then it was offered a great deal to be purchased by Plantronics for nearly $2 billion. In my controversial piece about it here, I called it a bailout. Polycom was doing over $1 billion annually for a few years prior to the sale and I think Plantronics didn’t know that could-based videoconferencing was going to plow through the hardware companies so quickly. (Now the combined company is called Poly.)

Anyway, here we are a couple of years later and Polycom has made the transition to accessory company. That’s a good direction to head as now it can play with (and build hardware for) everyone!