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Video Hoopla

Thank you Cisco.  The announcements that have been made this week about your TelePresence offering have been a shot in the arm for the videoconferencing industry.  For the first time in many years, dozens of reporters, from a variety of media sources, are covering videoconferencing news.  This coverage has caused other providers of high definition video, telepresence, and traditional videoconferencing to benefit and we appreciate your efforts.

Why is it so exciting that you have entered the high-end video marketplace?  Obviously, because a company the size of Cisco, involved in a variety of telecommunications products and services, has decided it is worthwhile to invest in a technology in which many people have lost interest.  Your telepresence announcement means that videoconferencing is being looked at again by many organizations that tried it in the past and weren’t impressed.

Let's see how this impacts the choices available in the marketplace.

Polycom and Tandberg have been battling one another for years in the traditional videoconferencing space.  Each offers a line of products from low end to high end, and each has recently announced (or will announce shortly) high definition and telepresence offerings.  This will mean that users can go to one of two sources for all their videoconferencing needs from the desktop to the high-end boardroom, with or without high definition and telepresence capabilities.  I have always been a big proponent of one-stop shopping.  Sony also has an HD offering, but it has backed away from most other aspects of videoconferencing.  Since 1982, the Japanese have not learned that they could own the entire videoconferencing market if they wished.  NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, Panasonic, and Sony have all been players, yet none have remained market leaders.

TeleSuite (now Destiny Conferencing), Teliris, and Telanetix have been offering telepresence systems for many years.  I wrote a lengthy white paper in 2004 comparing these firms and others in the high end video space. (See Interactive Telepresence under “Articles” at the following web site 

LizeSize, formed in 2003, offers high definition videoconferencing with LifeSize Room and LifeSize Team priced at $12K and $8K.  It has clients today who have taken the high definition product and built them into a telepresence room environment.   HP got into this space last year with Halo, which is a high definition room offering that will probably eventually be available in smaller systems as well. 

The Cisco news is important because bigger players (Cisco and HP) are jumping into video.  Cisco’s entrance gives credibility to the industry and carriers around the world are aggressively rolling out next-generation networks.  Cisco’s TelePresence offering has been built from the ground up to capitalize on the new networks. 

How can the Cisco offering be improved?  Everyone would like the cost to be lower.  I would also like the Cisco offering to be standards compliant and backwards compatible with systems from Polycom and Tandberg.  Of course, multipoint is also very important. 

It is important to note that what Cisco has done is already resulting in customers taking a look, with some buying.  Carriers like Verizon and AT&T are on board to market the Cisco offering and, of course, encourage customers to buy networking.

I believe that telepresence has delivered face-to-face communications at a whole new level for several years.  What Cisco is doing is making the entire industry credible and exciting at a time when it could use a shot in the arm.  I like the hoopla. 

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