News in Brief: 14 December, 2015

December 14, 2015 Source
Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America announced a partnership (integration and more) with Blackboard, Inc. to enhance the paper-to-digital workflows in the higher education and K-12 environments.  Sharp’s integration with Blackboard’s flagship learning management system, Blackboard Learn, will enable students to print and scan assignments from any connected Sharp multifunctional printer (MFP) directly to the students’ Blackboard Learn courses. This streamlined process is meant to help increase the timeliness of student assignment submissions. As a parent, I’ll say halleluiah (though I’ll note that some assignments and homework end up never seeing the light of a printer – remaining digital forever).  Additionally, Sharp plans to support online course development, giving educators the ability to add original electronic and scanned materials directly into Blackboard Learn courses via Sharp Cloud Portal Office, a content management and sharing service.  In support of the partnership, Blackboard has joined Sharp’s Strategic Technology Alliance Resource program, a directory of third-party products and services that complement Sharp’s professional display products.  I’ll also note that Sharp is touting the quality of both BB Learn and BB Collaborate web conferencing on the Sharp AQUOS BOARD interactive display system.  Sharp’s integration with Blackboard Learn is targeted to launch in the spring of 2016.

ThinkingPhones has announced that it has created an out-of-the-box integration with Microsoft Skype for Business, providing S4B customers with a global, cloud-based voice integration.  The integration offers cloud-based PBX calling to anywhere in the world; number localization; IP desk phone support; emergency calling; 99.999% guaranteed uptime with built-in business continuity; IVR and call routing; audio conferencing, video conferencing and web collaboration; and pre-built integrations with enterprise applications like Salesforce.com, Gmail for Business, and Zendesk. 

Vidyo announced today a $10M strategic investment from Kaiser Permanente Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Kaiser Permanente, and $5M from existing investors, for a $15M follow-on round of funding.  To date Vidyo has raised $163M from investors including Kaiser Permanente Ventures,Menlo Ventures, Rho Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds, QuestMark Partners, and others. The company will use the funds to accelerate growth in vertical markets – can you spell t-e-l-e-m-e-d-i-c-i-n-e?  TheVidyoWorks platform has a FIPS 140-2 certified crypto-kernel, providing HIPAA-compliant encryption, and a suite of APIs that provides its development partners with flexibility in embedding real-time video, audio and content communication and collaboration into their workflow applications for clinicians and patients. Kaiser, a $56B healthcare provider with over 20,000 doctors, uses Vidyo to video-enable its My Health Manager – which allows physicians and patients to connect, face-to-face, from the home, doctor’s office or hospital.

Array Telepresence has announced three new capabilities in its Equal-i technology: Immersive Everywhere, Immersive PTZ, and Letterbox+Content.  Immersive Everywhere improves the dual-screen image of a connected video conferencing codec that may not have an Equal-I system.  Immersive PTZ involves leveraging the Equal-i Image Processor to improve the incoming scene from a conventional video conferencing system with a Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera trained on the center-line of the table even if that location doesn’t have Array. And LetterBox+Content is Array’s proprietary, single screen view that reduces a dual-screen immersive telepresence view to a single screen and offers an improved view to the PTZ camera when connected through a video bridge or conferencing with participants on desktops, laptops, and/or mobile devices.  These capabilities will be available as a free upgrade to existing customers and standard on all systems in Q1 of 2016.

On December 3, 2015, Polycom announced that it is taking actions designed to “further optimize” its organization. Translation: office closures and an 11% reduction in force. We already knew the Israeli office – remnants of the Accord acquisition way back in 2000 – was losing 280 employees via R&D and production moving to India.  The company expects to record charges and make cash expenditures, primarily related to severance and other one-time employee termination benefits, of between $19 million and $22 million through the fourth quarter of 2016 as a result of this action.  Meanwhile, downsizing / elimination of facilities will result in approximately $3 million in additional charges through the third quarter of 2016, inclusive of the planned closure of our office in Israel.  The total charges expected to be incurred in connection with these actions through the fourth quarter of 2016 are between $22 million and $25 million.  Polycom revised its fourth quarter 2015 GAAP earnings per share to range from $0.07 to $0.09 per share.

Love it when a startup out of New Zealand claims to be the world leader in user experience and analytics in video collaboration.  Will give the founder credit for grit and gumption and biggest boast of the month. Faceme claims its amazingness in avideo on its website, while announcing a partnership with Samsung to improve the VC experience. Faceme and Samsung are combining technology to develop Faceme Rooms, meeting rooms that “allow anyone with Internet to run meetings, video or audio conferences and wirelessly cast any device to a screen with the touch of a button.”  The concept is due to launch in January 2016.

It’s getting pretty rough out there on the pricing front (or you could say, as the vendors do, they are making this stuff more affordable for their target customers).  TrueConf has reduced its USD pricing for its on-prem TrueConf Server by 30%, effective December 1.  And Collaboration Squared has dropped the price on its Ubiety services by 75% — which it claims are similarly priced to Cisco Spark.  Collaboration Squared is adding an endpoint registration service so anyone can register their standards-based endpoint to the cloud and get a SIP URI, firewall traversal, and a free virtual meeting room for that endpoint. Endpoint registration protects endpoints from unwanted SPAM attacks, makes point-to-point dialing simpler, and standardizes an enterprise’s video conferencing addresses. Cost for the new service: $25 per month.  Finally, all three of the Ubiety core licenses: Ubiety Hosts, Ubiety Endpoint Registration, and the rebranded Ubiety Huddle Room are the same prices, $25 per month, enabling an organization to buy a bundle of licenses and then determine which it wishes to “turn on.”

Besides making a big new hire out of Google (see People & Places), Pexip announced that the newest version of its Infinity platform will enable deployment directly on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform.  With a Pexip Infinity AWS deployment, it will be easier and fast for administrators to spin up extra instances and add capacity.  One goal: eliminate the need for its customers to invest in or own any additional or custom hardware, as the entire collaboration solution can be hosted on the AWS cloud.  Pexip makes Infinity available as Amazon AMIs – Application Machine Images – for the AWS cloud. These can be deployed on AWS to benefit from any of Amazon’s deployment options; a private, public, or hybrid instance.  Separately, Pexip also announced that this version of Infinity will include Pexip Fusion, in an effort to improve the user experience for Microsoft Skype for Business or Lync users when they join meetings that include standards-based SIP or H.323 videoconferencing users.  Pexip Fusion can be activated automatically in video-based meetings with participants using a mix of Skype for Business and legacy videoconferencing, and S4B users will find familiar layouts, participant listings, and meeting controls.

Barcelona’s Digital Samba has announced release 4.3.9 of its OnSync Platform.  High notes: a new admin dashboard, improved statistics, enhanced collaboration features, and more than 70 features and improvements.  Some specifics include auto-record of sessions, the ability to save whiteboard drawing and backgrounds, a new menu option to easily access previously saved polls, and some improvements in the ability to personalize a lobby screen and email templates.  The Daylight Savings Time auto-detect might be attractive to some of those folks challenged when scheduling meetings.

Sonic Foundry reported its earnings results last Thursday, describing billings of $11.5M in its Q4 2015, up 25% from its Q4 2014 results.  (The company billed a $2.1 million international transaction that did not meet the criteria for revenue recognition at September 30, 2015 — recording of revenue and earnings for this transaction is delayed until fiscal 2016.)  So actual revenue was $9.1 million, an increase of 7%, compared to $8.5 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014. Service revenue, including increased hosting and support, was the primary driver for this increase.  SoFo’s gross margins were up, while it had a net loss of $1.2 million, or $(0.28) per share.  Unearned revenue from services and products of $12.7 million as on the books as of the end of the fourth quarter 2015, compared to $10 million as of the end of the fourth quarter 2014. The company expects to realize $3.6 million of this unearned revenue at September 30, 2015 in the first quarter of fiscal 2016.  The company is providing fiscal 2016 guidance of billings of between $42 and $45 million, adjusted EBITDA of between $3.5 and $4.5 million and bottom line results of between breakeven and $1.0 million. While the company missed guidance on the year, in part due to some “hiccups” with its Japan acquisition and the sales deferrals described above, it does seem to be turning the corner and be entering 2016 with a nice pipeline and hopes of hitting its numbers.

ON24 announced feature enhancements for its Webcast Elite product line. These include design changes to the ON24 webinar product, as well as an update to the Presentation Manager XD (PMXD) that lets webinar producers and presenters more easily manage live and pre-recorded presentations.  For analytics, an updated attendee graph helps delineate between live vs. on-demand attendee data. And the analytics include new navigation settings, with audience reports that allow users to toggle between all registrants, all attendees, live attendees, on-demand attendees, and no-shows in the report, with sortable columns for each metric.  The company also announced it is extending its “Epic Webinar Fails” campaign, which offers a deal for companies currently stuck in contracts with (their words, not ours): “inferior webcasting providers.” Under the terms of the offer, ON24 will buy out new customers from their existing contracts, including WebEx and GoToWebinar agreements.

It’s here! We briefed with the Zeetings team back in July, when they were bringing to the marketplace a freemium offering of what they consider to be a new approach to delivering content.  Ever read “Death by PowerPoint?”  You should!  Anyway, Zeetings is a web and mobile app designed to change how people view content and presentations, and it’s built for both conference / classroom use and “anywhere, anytime” use. Zeetings users can take notes, respond to polls by presenters, and interact with other users.  The company delivered a Basicfreemium offering this past summer, that includes up to 100 participants per zeeting (bear with them here), unlimited public and private zeetings, unlimited PowerPoint, PDF, and image uploads, and more.  Their new Events paid service includes Basic but adds support for up to 500 participants per zeeting, advanced analytics, ability to export analytics to CSV files, Advanced Broadcasts including Moderation, and Priority Support – priced at $250 per month.  The paid service is designed for larger events such as summits, seminars, town hall meetings, and the enterprise that is ready to pony up an enterprise-class solution.  While it may be a while before they get Cisco Spark or GoToMeeting into their crosshairs, these guys from Australia are aiming high.

Zeetings isn’t the only innovator in the “let’s do meetings differently” space.  We’ve written about Dobefore.  Well, last month Microsoft launched Microsoft Graph, a software development platform meant to make it easier for corporate developers to merge Office 365 applications with custom features.  In Do’s case, its usual goal is enable its customers to keep better tabs on agenda items, related documents, and follow-up tasks. With the Graph capability, no doubt Do wishes to get its 10,000 customer companies to have a richer, more context-sensitive experience – the company founder Jason Shah suggests that smartwatch apps could provide discrete alerts as meetings draw to a close, or users can schedule follow-up gatherings more quickly. (Of course Do doesn’t mind a bit of publicity in front of the rest of the Microsoft installed base.)

Adobe’s stuff is in use for sure, but sometimes a bit of random support blogging gets us to pay heed.  “Due to the growing popularity of Adobe Connect,” the company has stated that it is adjusting the ID values in Adobe Connect databases to support longer values, which will accommodate growing customer use of Adobe Connect.  Starting with release 9.5.2, Adobe Connect will migrate the ID values in Connect databases from INT to BIGINT/Long.  Developers out there, have fun!  Competitors, stay tuned!  Users, relax.

Published on 14 December 2015 by Wainhouse Research
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