Cisco, Tandberg Give Glimpse of Integrated Road Map

Officials with both Cisco Systems and Tandberg say they expect to get the regulatory go-ahead in the first half of the year to complete the $3.4 billion acquisition of Tandberg. After the deal closes, Cisco will create a TelePresence Technology Group comprising several business units and will push for an integrated platform made up of both Cisco and Tandberg messaging and collaboration products. There also will be a focus on greater interoperability with Tandberg products and those of third parties.

Interoperability will be a key driver after Cisco Systems completes its $3.4 billion acquisition of Tandberg, not only between the two companies' technologies but also with third-party telepresence products.

Cisco officials say they expect to get final regulatory approval for the deal in the first half of 2010, after which they'll create a new Cisco TelePresence Technology Group covering their own products and those from Tandberg.

In addition, Cisco will push to create an open integrated architecture based on open standards that will foster greater interoperability with Tandberg and third-party UC (unified communications) systems, the company said in a statement Feb. 9. Along with the interoperability angle, other features of the integrated architecture will include "one button to push" and "continuous presence."

The company already is pushing for greater interoperability. On Jan. 26, Cisco released TIP (Telepresence Interoperability Protocol) into the public domain. Tandberg, LifeSize Communications and Radvision already have signed licensing agreements for the protocol, according to Cisco.

However, Polycom won't be signing on to the TIP effort; officials said they question the wisdom of letting such a dominant player lead the push for an interoperability standard. That job is best left to third-party standards bodies, Polycom said.

Cisco has aggressively muscled its way into the video collaboration space, including the immersive telepresence market. The company currently offers its high-end TelePresence line of products. Buying Tandberg not only removes a key competitor, but also gives Cisco a stronger midmarket presence.

Cisco sees video as a key part of a larger $34 billion collaboration market, and is looking to expand the reach of TelePresence into areas outside of the virtual meeting room, including classrooms, lecture halls and corporate training rooms. For example, Cisco announced Feb. 10 that it is creating a high-end TelePresence environment in a classroom at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

That news came a week after PepsiCo announced that it had selected Cisco and BT for a telepresence initiative that will touch on the company's major offices worldwide.

Cisco and other telepresence technology providers are pushing their products as a way to help businesses improve collaboration and communication among employees and with partners and customers, while at the same time greatly reducing travel expenses.

Within the new Cisco TelePresence Technology Group will be several product units, including immersive TelePresence, multipurpose room systems, personal systems, platform portfolio, infrastructure and TelePresence as a service.

Each unit will have a mix of Cisco and Tandberg products, Cisco officials said.