One of the great things that came from #MSIgnite was the announcement of the next Lync Room Systems (aka Project Rigel). As a Skype4B admin who has done integration with current generation Lync Room Systems and Polycom infrastructures, I have to say that Microsoft has made huge steps forward.
The idea of a Lync Room System was great, however the initial execution from the first generation systems was lacking a cohesive professional polish. Earlier versions of the Lync Room Systems where built around non-standardized hardware that each vendor (Polycom, Crestron, and SMART) customized with a non-vanilla client software based on an SDK provided by Microsoft. All of these pieces made for a management nightmare, while delivering a sub-par user experience at an exorbitant price point.
However, after seeing and using these myself, I am actually excited about these new room systems and let me explain why.
All of these systems are based around the Surface Pro 4! That’s right, the image above is an actual computer and not a dumb terminal like most flat screens with room systems. There is no need to have an equipment cabinet to hold the computing component of the room system. This is the core of all of the new room systems, the current vendors (Logitech, Crestron, and Polycom) have taken the Surface Pro 4 and built a standard dock, which contains the power, HDMI and other connectors. Additionally, the vendor is able to build various packages with peripherals, such as cameras, and audio devices that cater to the various size meeting rooms.
Microsoft has created a new Skype for Business application that has been hidden on the Microsoft store and is only available to devices that have been licensed to use them. This means that we can’t just go buy a bunch of Surfaces and create our own room system. However, the major advantage is that now all of the room systems, regardless of vendor, will be using the same Skype software and deliver the same controls and experience to users.
Because of the flexibility with these devices being packaged with different audio and video equipment based on the needs of specific rooms, the price point varies. However, it was announced that small sized room systems will have a starting price point of about $1,200. Medium to large size rooms can reach upward of $5,000. This is still a significate reduction in cost compared to current Lync rooms systems that sell for around $10,000.
At this time, Logitech is set to the first hardware vendor to release the room system and Crestron and Polycom are following shortly behind. If you would like to know more I recommend that you want the Ignite session on Project Rigel or read the links below from the vendors. There is many details about the systems, and you can see a live demonstration.