Cisco boosts telepresence; targets broader customer base

Cisco Systems gave its telepresence services a boost with announcements today that not only could create new uses for the technology but also extend its reach beyond executive board rooms in enterprise companies.Among the new targets: small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as branch offices and multiple conference rooms at the corporate office of a large enterprise operation.

Cisco Systems gave its telepresence services a boost with announcements today that not only could create new uses for the technology but also extend its reach beyond executive board rooms in enterprise companies.

Among the new targets: small- to medium-sized businesses, as well as branch offices and multiple conference rooms at the corporate office of a large enterprise operation.

The company is introducing a new telepresence system that utilizes one 65-inch plasma screen and three cameras to allow up to six people to use the services. The previous generation system involved three 65-inch plasma screens and cameras against a half of a conference room table to produce the effect of people sitting across from you at the table.

Also see: Cisco Telepresence: Coming to a home near you (someday)

Because the system is tied to one screen, it becomes easier to put it in smaller conference rooms - whether in the enterprise or an SMB. It also allows the conference room - which was limited to telepresence usage in the past - to be used for both telepresence and non-telepresence meetings.

In addition, the company introduced extended reach technology, which allows users to run over slower bandwidth connections, such as T1 lines used by SMBs, and deliver 720p resolution. In a statement, Charles Stucki, vice president and general manager of Cisco's TelePresence Systems Business Unit, said:

Cisco is reinventing how users can experience Cisco TelePresence and how companies can change the way they do business by collaborating in an entirely new way.  From in-person meetings with seamless interoperability, to high-quality broadcast recording, to sophisticated events, this next wave of collaborative applications substantially expands what Cisco TelePresence can enable, making it even more useful and flexible for everyone in every company.

Beyond that, the company is also turning the telepresence system into a recording studio, allowing the recording and re-broadcasting of lectures, speeches and other presentations. Using the previously announced Media Experience Engine, users can also watch the recordings in standard definition over other devices, including PCs or mobile phones. Telepresence capabilities are also being extended into other video conferencing services and is now integrated with applications such as WebEx.

Telepresence advocates have long pointed to the money saved by reducing travel expenses. Cisco notes that the cost savings go a step further with the recording studio service because it eliminates the need for studio rentals or use of lower-definition web cameras.

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