The Polycom Trio has been a conference room staple for decades due to its uncomplicated design and high-quality audio experience for all meeting participants. Over the years, the Trio has maintained its place at the center of the table by integrating cutting-edge functionalities while preserving its intuitive user interface. In light of the release of the new Poly Trio C60, we thought it was the perfect time to take a trip down memory lane with Polycom co-founder, Jeff Rodman to get a feel for the legacy of this iconic device.
When you were starting your company, did you ever expect you would be introducing a product like Trio?
Jeff: In the early nineties, we were tightly focused on the one product, first generation. We called it the “Spider” and it took the name Polycom SoundStation. It had to be the best open-air conference system in existence, so we focused on that alone. There was no big control panel, just five pilot lights and a touch pad, but that’s all that was needed to handle calls simply and transparently.
Its success was kind of a surprise, wasn’t it? Why do you think that was?
Jeff: We’d spoken with a fair share of our prospective customers and the message was unanimous: just make it work, let it feel natural, and make it easy to use.
And, how did you know who to talk to?
Jeff: Well, our previous startup was PictureTel, which really hit it big in introducing practical videoconferencing to the business world, and a lot of those customers were staying in touch to see what we’d do next.
Were they surprised you were doing a speakerphone instead of video?
Jeff: Some were. But when they understood that we were applying some really new, cutting-edge thinking to speech – which is arguably the most critical way in which people communicate, they got it. Our past customers were some of our strongest supporters, and, in my view, that’s what happens when you do it right and listen to your users.
When did you know you had gotten it right?
Jeff: We knew that the technology we had was solid and at the forefront of the industry. We then went through several iteration of the design until we ultimately landed on something that felt like we had got it right.
You mentioned that you stayed in touch with your customer base and had a clear idea of what they were looking for. Where did things go from there?
Jeff: On the business side, we had always valued strong partnerships. We put a lot of work into growing and strengthening those. On the feature side, we first expanded the range of our room systems, and then we introduced HD Voice.
Can you explain what HD Voice is?
Jeff: It’s wideband audio, with twice the fidelity of normal phones. “HD Voice” was the name Marketing gave it. Thing is, a lot of the details in speech are higher pitched than phones can carry, like the difference between “Tad” and “Dad,” or “zap” and “sap”. And, it’s even more critical when people have different native languages – in the case of strong accents, those audio clues are vital. The old copper phone network couldn’t carry that, so we built the VTX1000 speakerphone, that sends HD Voice over a conventional phone line, and then moved HD Voice into SIP networks when that became feasible.
The Polycom SoundStation featured in the Smithsonian’s Collection of Electrical History
Is that what Trio does?
Jeff: Oh, that’s just the beginning. Years ago, we had a concept called, the “Modular Room”. The way we approached the Modular Room was by viewing something like a speakerphone simply as a construct — a set of mechanical functions that you just so happened to decide to package in a box. However, the speakerphone would still function if it were to be packaged in two boxes, or even three. And, when we reconceptualized it in that way, we had the ability to create solutions that address more problems than just putting a speakerphone on a table.
So that’s Trio?
Jeff: Yes, that was the start. We started by focusing on making Trio the best speakerphone ever. We’ve always kept a pulse on the latest technology available and applied it in our products. As time went on, advances in tech granted Trio a top-class display like a smartphone allowing it to control many other functionalities. We gave it wireless Wi-Fi and IP connectivity so it could grow in many different directions. And, to this day, we keep developing more abilities to extend its reach: smart cameras to add videoconferencing; HDMI and data interfacing that allow it to be used in any mainstream conference room; something we call “content” referring to any kind of live interactive visual communication. Trio is the Central Control for modern conferences, and out of the box it has the best audio on the market to date. All you need to have a great conferencing experience is Trio audio, and if down the line you want a more robust meeting experience, you can add in video, content, multiple screens, and so on. The Trio can connect to it all as your needs evolve.
What comes next?
Jeff: The next generation of the Poly Trio was actually just introduced earlier this month. And, true to its nature, the new Trio C60 is loaded with new features in-step with the latest collaboration technology.
Poly Trio smart conference phones let you join a meeting in seconds with a single touch of a button. Make audio calls, video calls, share content or all three. To learn more about the Poly Trio, visit our website.