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In the CEO Spotlight section in Internet Telephony® magazine, we recognize the outstanding work performed by exemplary companies. Each month we bring you the opinions of the heads of companies leading the Internet telephony industry now and helping to shape the future of the industry. This month, we spoke with Zee Hakimoglu, President and CEO of ClearOne Communcations.


GG: What is ClearOne’s Mission?

ZH: ClearOne’s mission is to deliver premium audio conferencing products to the world. In today’s competitive global environment, group meetings between geographically separated participants are an essential part of doing business. Audio is mission critical. Regardless of whether the meeting is conducted through video conference, telephone, or the Web, audio is integral to effective conferencing. After all, even if you can see who you are talking to, you won’t be able to communicate if you can’t hear what they are saying.

Companies are looking for ways to be more productive, and group meetings are an area that can be easily improved. Our products are developed to enable meetings between distant participants that are as effective and productive as if everyone were in the same conference room.

GG: What is your vision for ClearOne and how is the company positioned in the next-generation telecom market?

ZH: My vision is that the name ClearOne becomes synonymous with audio conferencing and is the first company that comes to mind when deciding on products for a conferencing space. We have supplied audio equipment to Fortune 500 companies for more than 20 years and are fortunate to have a very strong foundation in developing high-end, installed audio conferencing products. In fact, we are the worldwide leader in this space. Building upon this position should bode well for us in the next-generation telecom market. As enterprises make the switch to VoIP, they are forced to evaluate all of their telecom needs, including products for group communication from the executive office to the boardroom to the large corporate training room or auditorium. By leveraging our technology expertise and market leadership, we can tap into new opportunities being created by the increased adoption of VoIP.

GG: What is it that sets ClearOne apart from your competition?

ZH: Quality and innovation are two areas that I believe truly separate ClearOne from the competition. Throughout our 20-year history, we have focused on developing the highest quality products possible, and our market leadership in the high-end installed space validates that. ClearOne has also earned a reputation for unrivaled customer service and support, which I believe is every bit as important as the quality of the product itself. This dedication to customers extends to not just the end users of our products, but to our channel partners as well, who we view as the lifeblood of our company.

At the same time, we have not let product innovation take a back seat to quality. We developed many truly innovative products, including the industry’s first audio conferencing system to use Distributed Echo Cancellation, the industry’s first wireless conference phone, the industry’s first fully expandable conference phone that daisy-chains multiple phone units, and the industry’s first product to fill the wide price/performance gap that existed between plug and play tabletop conference phones and professionally installed audio conferencing systems.

GG: Now that it appears that growth and opportunity are the trends in the VoIP industry, what possible hurdles do you see that might upset this momentum?

ZH: The biggest hurdle in my mind is that standards are not yet solidified. With the tremendous amount of competition and growth in the VoIP industry, many new companies are developing unique solutions that create interoperability problems and ultimately slow down adoption.

GG: What are some of the technology areas where ClearOne is increasingly focusing, and why are these areas so important to the future of your company?

ZH: We are focused on developing technologies that drive adoption of conferencing products across a diverse customer base. Improving ease of use across all of our product lines is a significant area of focus, as is implementing and improving the ability to control conferencing products on the network, and development of VoIP-based products. In addition, we continue to focus on advanced technologies that will further enrich the audio experience for users of conferencing products.

GG: Describe your view of the future of the IP telephony industry?

ZH: I expect to continue to see a tighter integration between computers, smart devices and telephony, as well as increasing connectivity and access through a much wider range of devices. Because of this, I believe the IP telephony industry will continue to see increased competition from outside of the traditional telecom markets. For example, network and computer companies are becoming heavily involved in telecom, cable companies are providing voice services, and traditional voice companies are providing data services. From a competitive standpoint, there is no single area for companies to monitor. Rather, they need to be aware of the total technology landscape.

I also expect to see continued convergence of voice, data, and video. IP is the key enabler for this convergence, as it not only creates cost savings, but more importantly offers benefits of increased functionality and productivity. This convergence is inevitably headed toward the desktop, which for the conferencing industry means that the complex room video conferencing systems that are often just gathering dust will be replaced by desktop systems that are as easy to use as your PC or telephone. IT