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Photos: The future of videoconferencing

Beam me up, Scotty...
By Andy McCue, Contributor on
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1 of 5 Andy McCue/ZDNET

Beam me up, Scotty...

Videoconferencing has had many false dawns over the last couple of decades because of issues with video quality, poor latency and the cumbersome nature of the products but IT giants Cisco and HP are now going head-to-head with rival high-end videconferencing products that promise a more real-life experience that can cut down on corporate travel expenses and improve collaboration.

Cisco demoed its TelePresence offering (pictured above) at the company's annual Networkers conference in Anaheim, California this week.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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2 of 5 Andy McCue/ZDNET

The TelePresence package includes converting the room, the desk, the networking and three 65-inch high-definition screens - all supplied by Cisco.

Each TelePresence suite is kitted out in identical fashion to create the appearance that everyone is actually sitting in the same room and everyone in the meeting appears life-size on screen.

Directional microphones mean that when someone speaks, the sound comes from where their image is on-screen, while PowerPoint and other presentation material can be projected just below the TV screens.

The high-end videoconferencing package comes with a hefty price tag, however - $300,000 for each TelePresence suite, not including communications costs.

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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3 of 5 Andy McCue/ZDNET

Cisco itself has now used TelePresence internally for 10,000 virtual meetings and CEO John Chambers says it has slashed the company's travel bill by $150m.

He said: "I can pay for the product in the first year by factor of twofold versus what it cost me."

Chambers claims Cisco is two to five years ahead of its rivals in this field and says ease of use is the key differentiator.

He said: "It had to be easy to use. Ease of use to me meant like Star Trek not only 'beam me up, Scotty' but I don't need Scotty to beam it up, I need to be able to do it myself."

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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4 of 5 Andy McCue/ZDNET

Managed office space company Regus is one of Cisco's first big TelePresence customers. Regus is putting the finishing touches to a contract that will see the rollout of the videoconferencing technology across 50 of its sites around the globe.

Regus will first use TelePresence internally and then offer it as a service to other Cisco TelePresence customers who want to set up videoconference meetings with partners and suppliers who don't have the technology themselves. After that the plan is to offer TelePresence suites as a service to Regus customers in the region of $300 to $500 per hour per room.

Stephen Moore, programme director IT and services at Regus, said bandwidth will be a big issue for companies wanting to install TelePresence.

He said: "TelePresence alone needs 15Mbps per site with class of service, and that's the challenge for us."

Photo credit: Andy McCue

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5 of 5 Andy McCue/ZDNET

HP's Halo videoconferencing (pictured above) is a similar proposition, while other companies such as Polycom are also entering the market.

Halo is also for those with deep pockets, weighing in at £287,000 per room and a £10,000 per month service fee.

Early Halo adopters include AMD, DreamWorks and PepsiCo. See more photos of Halo here.

Photo credit: Tony Hallett

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