Cisco Systems' TelePresence video conferencing products over the past five years have been praised for helping businesses save money on travel costs and improving employee productivity, but also have been criticized for being expensive and closed.
Cisco officials are looking to answer those criticisms with new and enhanced TelePresence offerings designed to expand the reach of the technology to smaller businesses and enable more people to leverage the technology.
With the new products unveiled Oct. 26, the company is looking to grow its market lead over a growing number of aggressive rivals that include Polycom, Logitech's LifeSize Communications, VIdyo and Radvision. They're all trying to get a better foothold in a rapidly expanding market that market research firm Infonetics has said will see double-digit growth into 2015.
"With 52 percent global market share, Cisco TelePresence has been forging the path for new ways of working together, where everyone, everywhere can be -present' to make better and faster decisions," O.J. Winge, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's TelePresence Technology Group, said in a statement. "The next phase of TelePresence will democratize the in-person experience for people in all sizes and types of organizations."
Among the new technologies is an SMB offering that leverages cloud computing. Through a hosted service called Cisco TelePresence Callway, businesses can buy or lease select multipurpose or personal endpoints, which can be connected to the service. Cisco manages the Callway service, which is sold through channel partners starting at $99 a month. Using Callway, businesses get unlimited calls to any TelePresence endpoint or standards-based video device from other vendors, a key move in opening up what rivals have called a proprietary system. Up to 12 people can participate in the call.
It also takes away some of the expense and complexity, which Cisco officials said have been hurdles to SMBs adopting the technology. The Callway service is available immediately.
Cisco also is offering endpoints enable businesses to offer TelePresence capabilities outside of conference rooms. With Cisco's Jabber Video for TelePresence software, users can invite others to join TelePresence calls from such devices as desktop and laptop PCs as well as tablets. Users can go to a Website to send invitations to join a TelePresence call. Cisco will roll out a beta program for the offering in the first quarter of 2012.
In addition, the company is rolling out the TelePresence MX300, a room-based system that quickly can be set up-in as little as 15 minutes, according to Cisco-in small and mid-sized meeting rooms to create a nine-person TelePresence room. The system will be available in the first quarter of next year.
Cisco also is pushing its TelePresence technology into particular industries, and unveiled the TelePresence VX-Clinical Assistant, which is a mobile telemedicine cart designed specifically for health care organizations. The system is designed to better connect doctors with patients through the high-definition video communications technology for such tasks as remote consultations. In addition, organizations can use it for classes and lectures. The TelePresence VX-Clinical Assistant also will be available in the first quarter of 2012.
The system hits on one of the key trends in the telepresence space. In the Infonetics report issued this month, Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise networks and video at the firm, said that growth in the video collaboration market was being driven by a number of factors, including "increasing acceptance of video among users, and specific use cases like tele-learning and tele-medicine."