Cisco expands telepresence choices for small, medium businesses

Cisco reaches out to small and medium-sized businesses with new telepresence options beyond the boardroom.

Telepresence has many potential financial and productivity benefits, but not all businesses can afford the upfront costs of enterprise-class technology.

Cisco is aiming to fill that gap with new telepresence solutions optimized for companies of all sizes.

One of the new solutions that reaches out from within a particular company enabled with products to their customers is Jabber Video for TelePresence. Basically, anyone with a Cisco TelePresence endpoint can invite anyone else from around the world to a telepresence meeting with full operability (i.e. web presentation, voice, video, etc.). Those end users who receive the invitation do not need to have a Cisco TelePresence subscription. The email includes a link to download the Jabber client for free.

Set to be available in Q1 2012, Jabber is a standards-based solution supporting up to 720p HD video quality on both PCs and Macs.

For companies that have a bigger budget and want to really integrate telepresence solutions into the company, Cisco has also debuted its TelePresence MX300 (pictured below). As the successor to the 42-inch MX200, the major difference here is the MX300 steps up it to a 55-inch screen.

Boasted to be ready to set up in 15 minutes, the thin and sheer MX300 is a multi-purpose, room-based system that can turn said room into a nine-person TelePresence meeting space. Video quality is top-notch at 1080p HD at 30 frames per second.

Additionally, Cisco offers a hosted service to connect endpoints such as these. Callway, a collaboration-based subscription program in the Cisco Collaboration Cloud, is especially targeted at small to medium businesses thanks to its plug-and-play operation. Subscriptions start at $99 per month for unlimited calls to any TelePresence endpoint and to third-parties using standards-based, Internet-connected devices.

There is something to be said about the value of an in-person meeting, but Cisco's latest TelePresence products really did appear more natural than most other video conferencing options available when presented during a special media event live at Cisco's headquarters in San Jose, Calif. on Tuesday.

Kathryn Murray, an employee solutions services section manager for Procter and Gamble, remarked during the telepresence meeting while speaking from Ohio that for every dollar that P&G has invested in these products, the company saved four times that on return in travel cost avoidance.

Although the cost of setting up these solutions can definitely hit smaller businesses harder, there is something to be said of how much this saves beyond just money. Think about how much time is wasted on airplanes as well as time away from home and families, both of which can also take a significant toll on a person's work life.