Innovation & Operation: Where’s your office? Or does it matter?

Mar 22, 2013 7:29 am   |   Leave a Comment

There is a cult of innovation, in which “businesses throw around the term to show they’re on the cutting edge of everything from technology and medicine to snacks and cosmetics,” according to a Wall St. Journal article, “You Call That Innovation?“, published last year.

We believe in innovation, and Avistar has been pushing the boundaries of videoconferencing for a long time.

But we also believe that companies can’t live by innovation alone.

That holds true even for the icon of American innovation: Apple. When launched, much of Apple’s technology is startling new and innovative. But if Apple were only an innovation machine, it might not be around, if not flourishing. It’s ability to promote, market, distribute, service, maintain and then innovate again makes it the company it is today. The point here: innovation is just one part of Apples success. It’s operation and the the ability to sustain it innovation is the bigger story.

In any business, there are times we do need to be together. Innovation is important, and the necessary collaboration is often best done in group settings – which is one reason Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has ordered all employees who had worked from home must, as of June 2013, work from a Yahoo office.

But there are times when people don’t necessarily have to be together. Companies need to focus on their operations. And clearly, employees can be more productive and efficient working wherever they work best. That may not necessarily be the office. It could be a client site, in a hotel while on business travel, or at the home office.

The benefits to working remotely include:

  • Increased productivity by eliminating often maddening commutes and in-office distractions.
  • Increased flexibility that allows employees to work on a varied schedule, which often leads to the employee working longer hours, but that sort of flexibility improves morale. And an employee with good morale is motivated to be more productive, which is only a good thing for the company.
  • Reduced office costs because companies don’t necessarily need office space for each employee.
  • Stronger employee retention, more creative thinking and less overall stress

Businesses should evaluate whether it is important that their employees work in an office or can benefit from working remotely. Part of the equation should be: “Can I hire the best employee locally or the best employee no matter where he or she is located?”

Companies should also take a look at their business’ innovation verses its operations. With the exception of certain “creative industries” (like advertising), most companies require a greater focus on operations to be successful. And there are probably more efficient ways than forcing people to commute to a central location and being in one office when at the end of the day, they’re just running an operation and they don’t need to necessarily directly collaborate.

At Avistar, a lot of our employees work from our San Mateo headquarters. But it’s also true that a lot of our employees, including members of the management team, work remotely. We find that the blend of local and remote working make our operation much more efficient, productive and of course, creative. That said, we frequently need to be together to support the innovation process, work on complex problems or just celebrate a great accomplishment. But we find that balance and because of it, we have a motivated, productive and creative workforce. That can’t be said for many other companies in our space.

We think the nature of work as well as the future of the office will continue to generate discussion this year – much more so than in recent years. And despite moves like Yahoo’s to ban remote working, we think businesses will rely increasingly on technologies that allow employees to work where they need to work. Cloud computing, BYOD and videoconferencing are enabling people to work the way they want to work. They can work in a central location when innovation is important and they can work remotely when they need to focus on operations, and still be productive and connected.

This is a case where the world is changing around us. If we embrace and leverage this change, our companies will be stronger, more profitable and generally better places to work.  That sounds like a recipe for success.

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The Future of Videoconferencing is Software

Feb 15, 2013 7:45 am   |   Leave a Comment

As the company that pioneered the first all-software MCU, we’ve believed for a number of years now that the future of videoconferencing resides in software. Telephony has always been about hardware so it’s not surprising that hardware-based expensive room systems were the primary way people used videoconferencing a few years ago.

But over the past five years, the world has transitioned from hardware to software. While we’ll always need some amount of hardware, software is now a driving, if not the primary, force in the IT world.  It’s really about the apps, the software that runs and connects the hardware.

That’s particularly true in videoconferencing.

We know we’re biased towards software, but that headline, by the way, is not just our statement. It’s the point of view of Andrew Davis, senior partner and analyst at Wainhouse Research, who was quoted in a terrific article by Gina Nacisi at @SearchUnifiedCommunications, as saying “I think all of the hardware-based vendors are realizing that video conferencing software is the future.”

Check out Gina’s article Video conferencing software and hardware: Hybrid approach needed.

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The Hardware They Fall

Jan 30, 2013 9:01 am   |   Leave a Comment

Okay, so the headline is a riff on the classic Jimmy Cliff song, “The Harder They Fall,” but we think it is an appropriate headline for hardware-based videoconferencing solutions, which is the subject of this blog post.

As you may of seen recently, many of the traditional hardware-based videoconferencing providers are experiencing significant problems. Some examples: Polycom announced a 96 percent decline in Q4 revenues directly attributed to a drop in their hardware-based videoconferencing sales. Logitech took a one-time $221 million charge against its LifeSize subsidiary, in effect writing off half the cost of the acquisition, conducted in 2009. That’s a lot of value to shed in just four years.

Yet videoconferencing is more popular than ever. It’s not that businesses have stopped buying videoconferencing. It’s that the market has recognized that hardware solutions don’t offer them what they need and what they want: cost-effective, easily scalable, easily upgradeable videoconferencing that can adjust on the fly to the demands of mobile, the cloud and BYOD.

So the hardware vendors are desperately trying to transform into software companies – to meet market demand, which has quickly shifted to an all-software approach – like Avistar’s C3™ videoconferencing platform. But the hardware manufacturers can’t move fast enough, and are finding it difficult to shed their hardware heritage, their hardware business model and hardware delivery model.

For example, Polycom has released a software-based MCU. Except that MCU is delivered on a piece of hardware. You can’t actually download Polycom’s software MCU, which means it’s not a true software deployment, and is subject to similar issues of other videoconferencing solutions delivered via hardware.

Another example: RADvision, recently acquired by Avaya, just launched a new MCU, and is positioning it as a software-based platform. However, just as is the case with Polycom, a customer can get the RADVision MCU only by purchasing it along with RADvision hardware.

By contrast, a few vendors in the industry, including Avistar, had the foresight and courage a few years ago to make the switch and truly have a software based videoconferencing platform that is standards based, interoperable and can be fully virtualized at the client site, or within the cloud.

Forgive us, but we’ve spent years talking about the need to take an all-software approach to videoconferencing infrastructure, so we feel a terrific sense of vindication when our approach gets validated by the market, by analysts and by an increase in our revenues – up 35 percent over the past 12 months. (Keep in mind: that 35 percent growth contrasts with Polycom’s 95 percent loss.) Here’s what trade magazine Telepresence Options said in an Oct. 2012 article: “The shift away from hardware infrastructure is undeniable and unstoppable.”

We’re proud to be ahead of the curve. We think that developing an all-software MCU that actually can be downloaded (and not delivered on a server) is the future of videoconferencing. We feel we have an advantage in that we have significant experience with paying customers using our field-tested, scalable, virtual and interoperable videoconferencing platform.

Next up: our next blog post will look at the implications of the user experience and how the browser, the mobile device and BYOD is changing the videoconferencing experience and industry.

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How Avistar ConnectWare Works

Dec 10, 2012 5:22 am   |   Leave a Comment

We’ve been talking about why we developed Avistar ConnectWare. In this post, we want to address how ConnectWare works.

Avistar ConnectWare uses the cloud to offer seamless multiparty voice and videoconference calls that allow users to connect anywhere, to anyone on any device.

But operating in the cloud doesn’t solve all cross-platform, cross-infrastructure problems.  Avistar’s all-software architecture is designed to meet the growing number of industry standards so that we can enable our users to connect from Lotus Sametime to Cisco Telepresence Suites or from Microsoft Lync to LifeSize, or any other unified communication, voice and/or videoconferencing combination.

And just as you would expect from your telephone carriers, Avistar ConnectWare worries about how all the connections are made, so you don’t have to. From intermixing audio standards to transcoding between video formats, Avistar ConnectWare negotiates, translates and deliveres a clear and reliable multiparty voice and videoconferencing, from any device, location or solution. That’s the power of combining proven communications software, with the scale and reach of the cloud.

Visit our Avistar ConnectWare micro-site at

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About Avistar Communications

Avistar is an innovation leader in the unified visual communications industry, with more than 15 years of experience providing proven business-class desktop videoconferencing technology. Avistar’s solutions are used across a broad spectrum of industries with deployments ranging in size from 30-35,000 users. Avistar’s technology also helps to power solutions from Citrix, IBM, LifeSize, Logitech and many other leading unified communications vendors, while delivering end-user videoconferencing solutions to some of the world’s largest corporations, in more than 40 countries. For more information, please visit

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