Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | May 28, 2010 |


The Interoperability Train Leaves the Station?

The Interoperability Train Leaves the Station? The Cisco telepresence story, as Wainhouse characterizes it, highlights some the increasing importance of interoperability, and points toward the work we're likely to see from the UCIF.

The Cisco telepresence story, as Wainhouse characterizes it, highlights some the increasing importance of interoperability, and points toward the work we're likely to see from the UCIF.

Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg, which just closed not too long ago, was seen by many observers as a triumph: Once again, John Chambers had worked his magic, identifying, pursuing, and capturing a major player in a key market that held the promise of rocketing Cisco to the next level in that market. And it's certainly hard to argue with this view.There is another take, however, and it's one that Andrew Davis of Wainhouse Research suggested when the Tandberg deal was first announced. Andrew told me in an interview at the time: "This acquisition validates Cisco's vision. It also is [an] acknowledgement that their strategy of the past two years was a failure. The Telepresence strategy was flawed." I added, paraphrasing: "Had Cisco believed it could continue on a relatively proprietary path, it simply would have pushed forward, Andrew said."

Andrew and his Wainhouse colleague Brent Kelly have just posted a feature on this site entitled, "Telepresence Today and Tomorrow," in which, among many subjects, they take on the state of the interoperability issues in videoconferencing, and how they're playing out post-Tandberg. They reiterate Andrew's suggestion from last year, that Cisco's bid to push a proprietary vision under the name "telepresence," will likely give way to Cisco acceptance of a more interoperable vision of simply "videoconferencing."

The Cisco telepresence story, as Wainhouse characterizes it, highlights some the increasing importance of interoperability, and points toward the work we're likely to see from the newly-announced Unified Communications Interoperability Forum (see Michael Finneran and Blair Pleasant on the UCIF announcement).

Wainhouse points out that the marketplace rejected an all-proprietary approach to high-end videoconferencing. Not that all interoperability issues are solved, or necessarily will be in the near term--but the market has expressed a clear preference for serious efforts in this direction by the vendors. (Granted, there's another factor: Cisco's initial take on telepresence--ultra-high-end, to the tune of $300,000 a room--was never going to grab anything but a market niche--about 1% of the market by units sold, 18% by revenues, according to Wainhouse.)

The video issue highlights a point that Finneran made in his UCIF blog: Demands for interoperability tend to reach critical mass first at the lower layers. We call telepresence an "application," but what telepresence interoperability really is about, what really has constrained it, has been that you can't even connect some systems to some other systems--it just flat-out doesn't work. This denies users the Metcalfe's Law effects that grow markets--which means it also denies vendors those same network effects. Thus do the interests of the customer and the vendor in interoperability come together.

So a big part of the UCIF's work will be listening to end users and vendors, both; and then finding those areas where lack of interoperability is a true pain point, and thus where interoperability solutions can represent a quick win.The Cisco telepresence story, as Wainhouse characterizes it, highlights some the increasing importance of interoperability, and points toward the work we're likely to see from the UCIF.


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