Cisco Systems' TelePresence video conferencing products over the past five years have been praised for helping businesses save money on travel costs and improving employee productivity, but also have been criticized for being expensive and closed.
Cisco executives are looking to answer those criticisms with new and enhanced TelePresence offerings designed to expand the reach of the technology to small businesses and enable a wide range of users to leverage the technology.
With the new products unveiled Oct. 26, the company is looking to increase its market lead over a growing number of aggressive rivals that include Polycom, Logitech's LifeSize Communications, VIdyo and Radvision. They're all trying to get a better foothold in a rapidly expanding market that market research firm Infonetics has said will see double-digit growth into 2015.
Among the new technologies is an SMB offering that leverages cloud computing. Through a hosted service called Cisco TelePresence Callway, businesses can buy or lease select multipurpose or personal endpoints, which can be connected to the service. Cisco manages the Callway service, which is sold through channel partners starting at $99 a month. Using Callway, businesses get unlimited calls to any TelePresence endpoint or standards-based video device from other vendors, a key move in opening up what rivals have called a proprietary system. Up to 12 people can participate in the call. The Callway service is available immediately.
Cisco also is offering endpoints designed to enable businesses to offer TelePresence capabilities outside of conference rooms. With Cisco's Jabber Video for TelePresence software, users can invite others to join TelePresence calls from such devices as desktop and laptop PCs as well as tablets. Users can go to a Website to send invitations to join a TelePresence call. Cisco will roll out a beta program for the offering in Q1 2012.
In addition, the company is rolling out the TelePresence MX300, a room-based system that quickly can be set up--in as little as 15 minutes, according to Cisco--in small and mid-sized meeting rooms to create a nine-person TelePresence room. The system will be available Q1 2012.