Cisco sees business advantage under the volcano

Cisco has been working on videoconferencing for years but such cutting-edge technologies don't really take off until disaster strikes and people are forced to depend upon them.

When life gives you lemons make lemonade. But what can you make of volcanoes?

Cisco wants to make business transformation from it.

The Iceland volcano comes just as Cisco is completing the acquisition of Tandberg, a Norwegian maker of video conferencing equipment. It is seizing the chance to dramatically expand the video conferencing market by making its Telepresence Interoperability Protocol (TIP) open source.

Ash clouds from the volcanic eruption in southern Iceland grounded Europe's air fleet last week, leading to a spike in video conferencing demand. Cisco hopes its moves will make that spike a permanent feature.

Cisco can now afford to let its rivals connect with its Telepresence technology because, with the Tandberg deal, it becomes the largest maker of video conferencing equipment. It already was a leader in satellite technology with its Scientific-Atlanta unit.

Cisco has been advertising the quality of its Telepresence technology with television ads, by branding its use on news shows, and by issuing white papers touting its use in time-sensitive areas like health care.

It has been hampered by ads that make it appear a video conference is just companies spending millions so people can look at one another on screens, but Telepresence also supports the sharing of large files, whiteboards, and other meeting essentials.

All this costs serious money. Cisco Telepresence rooms can have the technology of video studios, with 1 Gbps Ethernet, Quality of Service to assure low-latency connections, and plasma screens up to 65 inches across. Telepresence has been hampered by these high technical requirements.

So Cisco has been trying to reduce them. As the picture above (from the Cisco news room) shows, the company hopes to make teleconferencing cubicle-sized, with re-sellers using as much of a company's existing screens and gear as possible. Taking TIP open source will help with that.

Cisco has been working on videoconferencing for years but such cutting-edge technologies don't really take off until disaster strikes and people are forced to depend upon them.

Just as transit strikes and road closures spur permanent increases in telecommuting. Cisco hopes the same thing happens here with high-end videoconferencing.

Cisco, you're going out there as an expensive, over-hyped technology, but you've got to come back a star!

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com