Confirming something I wrote in SmartPlanet yesterday, Cisco said it is making its Telepresence technology open source. (Picture from Cisco.)
Divesting ownership of the Telepresence Interoperability Protocol, which links Cisco Telepresence to other companies' videoconferencing systems, was a condition of its $3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg, the Norwegian videoconferencing company.
The International Multimedia Telecommunications Consortium (IMTC) will make the technology available to Cisco competitors. This was a condition for EU approval of the deal, ZDNet UK reports. The TIP code will go under Apache license on July 1, at Sourceforge.
But even if it were not required, open sourcing TIP would be a good idea. The Cisco-Tandberg deal needs to be set alongside last month's acquisition of 3Com by HP. This makes HP a player in videoconferencing.
Neither HP nor 3Com is a member of IMTC, which will have a meeting about interoperability next week in Rome. It had its annual 2025 event a few weeks ago, with a speaker's list heavy on Cisco representatives.
The group is launching an interoperability group, and maybe HP might like to join it by videoconference. (Oh, that's right -- they're not compatible with TIP. Good luck getting there through the volcano!)
Speaking of the volcano, that event could prove seminal in the technology's history, sparking demand. As its acquisition was being announced, for instance, Tandberg's blog was celebrating a jump in demand, and Cisco was confirming an increase in interest.
The market's problem is cost, especially for Telepresence. Interoperability across much of the industry, and an open source protocol to assure interoperability, should help with that cost problem. So should the continuing impact of Moore's Law, especially when it comes to large plasma screens.
Until recently Cisco was mainly selling its Telepresence as a technological miracle, with ads featuring kids in China having a stare-down contest with American kids. The company has also been pushing its brand within TV shows, debuting at MSNBC in March.
The high end of the videoconferencing market now has to go down-market, or lose-out to investments in lower-quality gear, with all its compromises. So Cisco's move to an open source TIP makes great business sense.
The question now is whether HP will take the open source TIP or watch it become a defacto industry standard without it. Open source in this case is a pretty long lever.