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Cisco Home TelePresence at CES
John Chambers, CEO, Cisco Systems, demonstrated a home version of the company's TelePresence real-life videoconferencing system at last week's Consumer Electronics Show using a set-top device, remote control, high definition camera, microphone, and a standard HDTV monitor. The Cisco home videoconferencing solution is expected to sell for about $1,000 based on earlier company comments, excluding the cost of the HDTV screen and monthly broadband Internet service fees.Cisco has been a major proponent of video-based communications solutions and believes high quality home telepresence systems will replace lower performance PC-based webcam solutions that consumers have been deploying for more than a decade. Chambers stated that its video solution could also be used for variety of applications beyond basic two-party conversation, such as medical telemetry and remote learning. Cisco is planning to begin trials of its the home TelePresence technology with two network service operators, Verizon in the U.S. and France Telecom, before releasing a commercially available product.
Video communications for the home has been on the radar since AT&T demonstrated its videophone at the 1964 New York World's Fair at a time when the technology was expensive and the network infrastructure not in place. Today the technology is easily affordable and broadband access to support quality video is virtually ubiquitous. The scenario we have witnessed in numerous motion pictures set in the future--video calls (not voice-only phone calls) utilizing large wall-mounted screens--will soon become reality.
Cisco is the leading consumer communications supplier of cable boxes (Scientific Atlanta) and wireless routers (Linksys), and has recently been aggressively marketing its consumer-oriented Flip video recording device, so its plan to expand into real-time consumer videoconferencing was not unexpected. I believe that the company's consumer efforts will also be a major driver of telepresence in the commercial sector, further reducing the boundaries and distinctions between the two end user communications market segments (like cell phones have been doing for years). Cisco prominently featured video communications as part of its recent enterprise Collaboration launch and is in process of acquiring leading enterprise videoconferencing supplier Tandberg.