Cisco Video-Enables All of Its Endpoints

Cisco continues the rapid expansion of its video collaboration capabilties by video-enabling all of its endpoints, offering new TelePresence endpoints and improving video on WebEx.

Cisco Systems is continuing to aggressively expand its video collaboration offerings, including making all its enteprise endpoints video-enabled.

Cisco's announcement, made Nov. 15 as the company kicked off its Collaboration 2010 Summit in Phoenix, was among a host of news the networking giant is making, with the bulk of them around the rapid growth of video use by both consumers and enterprises.

Company officials also announced new TelePresence endpoints that will help expand the immersive technology to smaller systems, which will enable it to reach more users and move it down into the SMB space. In addition, Cisco is bringing high-quality video to its WebEx collaboration offering and is rolling out a service that will let service providers more easily offer TelePresence to their customers.

OJ Winge, who heads up Cisco's TelePresence business, said the industry is "in the middle of a major market transition" to widespread use of video in communications and collaboration, and vendors need to shift the focus of their efforts from the devices to the users.

"By video-enabling all of our endpoints, we are putting the person at the center of all communications," Winge said in an interview with eWEEK.

Cisco officials have been talking for more than a year about the dramatic shift they see underway as consumers and businesses rapidly adopt video in their communications. They says that about half of all Internet traffic currently is video-based and expect that number to jump to 90 percent by 2013.

The company has been expanding its capabilities in order to meet that growing demand, including buying telepresence vendor Tandberg earlier this year and adding to its Medianet vision.

Other vendors, including Hewlett-Packard, Polycom, Microsoft and Logitech's LifeSize Communications, also are increasing their efforts. However, Yankee Group analyst Zeus Kerravala sees Cisco and Avaya as the leaders in the video collaboration space, thanks to the efforts by both to change the overall experience for the end user. Avaya in September unveiled its Flare Experience initiative.

In a blog post Nov. 15, Kerravala said that many of the challenges that had gotten in the way of widespread adoption of video are disappearing. Cultural barriers are gone as younger people grab onto the technology, video is becoming ubiquitous, and technology has improved, he said.

In addition, Cisco's influence can't be understated, Kerravala said.

"One of Cisco's strengths has always been painting a vision for the industry and then leading the rest of the industry to it," he said. "Prior to Cisco getting into video there really wasn't a -thought leader' driving the vision of where video is going forward. ... Cisco's belief is by democratizing video by building it into all of their end points, workers will start to use video more."

The largest hurdle left is getting telecommunications vendors to make it easier for intercompany use of video collaboration, and Cisco officials are working closely with them in that area.

"Cisco's drive to deliver video everywhere is well timed with respect to industry and technology innovation," Kerravala said. "Do I expect the transition to happen overnight? Of course not, but the transition to video as a mainstream collaboration tool will happen faster than people think."

In addition to making all of its endpoints video-enabled, Cisco rolled out the TelePresence EX60 and TelePresence System 500 32-inch endpoints, both of which offer businesses smaller footprints and lower prices. The EX60 is priced 30 percent lower than the current EX90, enabling businesses to more quickly expand their use of video communications, Winge said.

The CTS-32 is a pedestal-based endpoint aimed at executives who are looking for a more immersive experience in their own offices. It also is about 30 percent less expensive that Cisco's CTS-37. With the new offerings, "you're really merging the notion of video and voice into a single architecture," Winge said.

Cisco also is putting higher quality video into its WebEx Meeting Center collaboration platform. Among the improvements, which will be available later this quarter, are the ability to share desktops simultaneously and to connect to TelePresence meetings through Cisco's WebEx One Touch feature. WebEx users also will be able to view all the participants in a strip along the bottom of the screen, thanks to Cisco's ActivePresence technology.

The company also is rolling out the TelePresence Exchange System, designed to let service providers create their own telepresence offerings for their customers.