Cisco launches mega videoconferencing system

Cisco Systems Inc. has talked about TelePresence and demonstrated it, and now it's finally something enterprises can buy, but at six figures, it's a high price to pay.

Cisco today has turned its long touted TelePresence videoconferencing system from a thing of the future into a tool for the enterprise.

TelePresence, which was demonstrated at its Networkers User Conference in July, puts people, places and events in the same virtual location, even if they are 10,000 miles apart.

Although Cisco's TelePresence July demonstration didn't impress some Networker attendees on an enterprise level, it was looked upon as "cool," innovative technology.

"I just can't make the leap from the baseball scenario [that was portrayed during CEO John Chambers' keynote] to the boardroom. It was cool stuff, but I'm not sold yet," said Bart Mandalay, a network engineer with a New York-based financial institution, who sat in on the keynote.

TelePresence relies on Cisco technology, including video, audio and remote communication technologies over an Internet Protocol (IP) network.

Cisco claimed, TelePresence transforms remote experiences to in-person experiences by capturing important interactions regardless of the distance between the parties.

As the TelePresence category grows, Cisco will develop additional applications tailored for specific industries, such as healthcare, retail, banking, entertainment and government. The first application to market, however, is the Cisco TelePresence Meeting solution and it is targeted at businesses to facilitate collaboration and enhance productivity. According to Zeus Kerravala, Yankee Group's senior vice president of enterprise research, TelePresence is significantly different from traditional videoconferencing.

"Although the basic concept of visual communications is the same, the clarity, quality and realism of TelePresence is significantly enhanced," he said. "However, I don't think its something that can be conceptualized."

TelePresence needs to be experienced to be well understood, Kerravala added.

"It would be beneficial to Cisco to build out as many demo centers as possible and run as many of their top customers through it as they can," he said. "TelePresence isn't for everyone though, with a six figure price point, right now only the largest customers will likely deploy it."



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