Cisco Systems opened the kimono at its Partner Summit meeting in San Diego March 16 to give channel partners a peak at new video conferencing technology that aims to transcend the problems of existing systems.
CEO John Chambers in his keynote address told attendees that a forthcoming "telepresence" system, due out within a year, can transmit full-size, high-quality video images capable of conveying body language and better sound quality.
The new system, which Cisco could launch as early as this summer or fall, according to Chief Development Officer Charlie Giancarlo, will become a part of Ciscos new Unified Communications system product suite.
The suite, launched earlier this month, is made up of the Cisco CallManger, Unity, MeetingPlace and IP Contact Center, as well as new components that include the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, Unified Presence Server and Customer Interaction Analyzer.
Cisco placed a big bet on video networking late last year when it announced its biggest acquisition to date: set top box and video distribution network provider Scientific Atlanta Inc. for $6.9 billion.
That acquisition, thought to be primarily a consumer and service provider play, could have significant implications for enterprises as well.
Chambers believes that in three to seven years, the majority of interactions within organizations and between organizations and their customers or partners will be video driven. "If we can improve the efficiency of that communication (among those groups) and change business practices to make decisions among groups at faster speeds, thats key," he said.
Chambers himself uses video on demand for 90 percent of his communications. "Video is the most effective communication mechanism there is. But it cant be video by itself. It has to be telepresence and unified communications," he said.
Although Cisco officials would provide little detail on the telepresence system, it could have a few things in common with Hewlett-Packards new HP Halo Collaboration Studio.
Launched in December, the HP offering allows users in different geographic locations to see and hear each other as if they were in the same room.
Telepresence provides similar benefits, according to Giancarlo. "Imagine you can get all the benefits of an in-person meeting without being there to shake hands," he said.
When asked about HPs Halo in a media roundtable at the Partner Summit, Chambers would only remark, "I think HPs Halo is a very interesting product."