Cisco: Video Conferencing Not a Choice Between Performance, Price

The vendor rolls out a host of new and enhanced video communications offerings to push the technology into conference rooms of all sizes.

Cisco Systems officials are out to prove that video conferencing doesn't have to be reduced to the false choice between cost and quality.

Cisco, the world's top video conferencing technology vendor, this spring will roll out a host of new and enhanced products that officials say will not only continue to make video conferencing affordable and available to more businesses, but also will offer high-quality experience for end users.

"It's not that we haven't had affordable video conferencing equipment in the industry," Rowan Trollope, senior vice president of Cisco's Technology Group, said during a Webcast conference with analysts and journalists. "We've had video conferencing equipment under $1,000. The problem is the experience sucked."

Trollope called the debate between price and performance a "Sophie's choice," and said Cisco is not only offering the new solutions, but also is reducing the price on many of products by as much as 45 percent.

Cisco's moves come at a time when video conferencing equipment sales are falling, even though video communication remains a priority for businesses looking for ways to better talk to their workforces, partners and customers and that want to improve employee productivity and reduce travel expenses. There is a shift in the industry toward software- and cloud-based video conferencing technology, and there are a range of smaller vendors—such as Vidyo, Blue Jeans Network and Zoom Video Communications—that offer such solutions.

Larger established players like Cisco and Polycom also are offering more software and cloud technologies, but in addition are pushing back at the notion that organizations are only looking for the least expensive video conferencing solution. For example, Polycom in February not only unveiled new cloud-based and virtualized software solutions, but also the RealPresence Immersive Studio room system.

"Anyone can build a system that's low cost, but not everyone can build something that's low cost and gives a great user experience," Cisco's Trollope said.

Cisco is throwing its considerable weight and resources to offer hardware and software solutions that will enable businesses to adopt video conferencing for any room of any size, and that can be leveraged by any user on any device—from high-end immersive systems to tablets and smartphones—and from anywhere.

This is important because 93 percent of conference rooms worldwide currently have no video conferencing equipment, and in the 7 percent that do, that equipment is not always being used, Trollope said. What businesses are looking for are offerings that enable them to have video conferencing equipment that is easy to use, cost-effective and high performing in every room. They also are looking for more than just the equipment, according to Snorre Kjesbu, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Endpoint Technology Group.

What Cisco is offering "is not about point products," Kjesbu said. "This is not about walled gardens. This is about enabling any company to be able to behave like a startup."

Cisco on March 12 unveiled a range of solutions and technologies that officials said customers can use to share video and content in conference rooms of all sizes. The company announced three new integrated TelePresence video systems, including the second-generation TelePresence MX200 all-in-one system with an integrated 42-inch screen that is aimed at smaller rooms and can be set up in less than 10 minutes. The TelePresence MX700 and MX800 are the vendor's performance systems targeting medium- to large-sized rooms. They include premium high-definition resolutions and support the H.265 protocol, which officials said will give users high quality at half the bandwidth needed for most current systems.