Cisco Testing TelePresence System for the Home: Report

Cisco reportedly is testing a TelePresence product for the home that would cost about $500 and could start rolling out later this year, according to Reuters. Cisco has been selling TelePresence systems to businesses for five years, but could run into low-cost competition from the likes of Skype and PCs that already offer video chat functionality.

Cisco Systems reportedly is testing a $500 consumer version of its TelePresence product and is aiming to start shipping it later this year.

Robert Lloyd, executive vice president of worldwide operations at Cisco, said during the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco that the device would be plugged into a user's television, according to a Reuters report.

Cisco officials have been selling TelePresence products into the corporate space for the past five years, with about 600 customers now worldwide, Chuck Stucki, vice president and general manager of Cisco's TelePresence business, said in an interview in March.

The company recently bolstered its capabilities with the $3.4 billion acquisition of video conferencing vendor Tandberg. Stucki said that with Tandberg on board, TelePresence revenue could grow to $1 billion or more.

That comes as more vendors also are looking to grow in the video collaboration space, which includes immersive telepresence products. Cisco competes with the likes of Polycom, Hewlett-Packard, Logitech's LifeSize Communications business and Radvision.

Driving much of the demand are businesses that are looking for ways to increase productivity while cutting costs in such areas as travel budgets. Video collaboration technologies make it easier for businesses to keep in close contact with employees, partners and customers without having to make trips to see them.

Stucki said he expects the worldwide telepresence market to grow from about $3 billion this year to $10 billion over the next five to seven years. Cisco officials are seeing interest in their TelePresence offerings in a number of settings outside the traditional business, including telecommunications and education.

They also are looking for ways to enhance the products, such as by adding greater translation capabilities.

The consumer market also is an attractive market for TelePresence, Stucki said.

The push into the home comes as others also are looking for ways to make video communications for consumers easier.

Google, in partnership with such vendors and retailers as Intel, Logitech, Sony and BestBuy, on May 20 unveiled Google TV, which is designed to merge television watching with Web surfing.

On May 13, Skype announced it was beta testing a function that will allow group video calling between up to five people.

Many PCs also have video chat capabilities, which could prove to be a challenge to Cisco's consumer-based TelePresence offering, even at $500 and with the promise of high-definition video and low latency.