Cisco TelePresence - Up Close and Personal

Today, Cisco Canada invited press and analysts for a live demo of TelePresence, and they did not disappoint! I was briefed on Telepresence recently, and posted about it, so I've made my views known already. While my basic thinking hasn't changed about the overall business case, experiencing Telepresence up close makes it very real, and you can really see why Cisco is so excited about this launch.

Before getting to the demo, I just wanted to say Cisco Canada did a great job putting this together, and Nitin Kawale gave an informative overview of Telepresence. The underlying rationale is to cut down on travel costs, plain and simple. By providing a life-like, real time experience that businesses have never had before, it is easy to see how this idea would take hold and that a business case can be built around it. Of course, for the investment we're talking about here, this is only going to fly in large companies who have serious travel budgets. It's not a mass market offering, that's for sure, but I can certainly see the fit. And I'm sure Cisco doesn't have to sell thousands of these to make it worthwhile.

Perhaps more importantly, Telepresence allows Cisco to become a player in the videoconferencing space, which has long been the domain of majors like Tandberg and Polycom. Of course, Cisco would argue that Telepresence is so life-like that it is not videoconferencing, and is a new category altogether. There's some merit to this, especially once you see how it works. Telepresence is really a phone call, believe it or not. The session is initiated over a Cisco 7960 IP phone - that's all there is to it. Of course there's a lot more to it under the hood, but it's a pretty seamless experience - which we're told is a lot harder to do than it looks. Not being a techhie, I'm inclined to agree.

Aside from pushing into the videoconferencing space, Telepresence also ties in nicely to the bigger picture of their Unified Communications vision, and being the vendor of choice for all forms of IP communications, and along with that, the platform that brings it all together. On that level, I also see the fit.

There are a lot of technical aspects to Telepresence, and the main items of note are i) the ultra High Definition video codec, ii) CD quality "spatial audio" sound and iii) broadcast quality cameras. On the codec front, Telepresence has 1080p resolution, which I'm told nobody else has. The "p" makes it ultra, whereas the common standard for 1080 is "i", which has half the resolution as "p". Now in fairness to other high end systems out there, I can't say first hand what they really have, nor have I seen any of them in person. I'd love to do that at some point, and then I'll really know the whole story. For now, though, Cisco has definitely got a good product here, and it's hard not to be impressed.

The demo was very smooth, relaxed and comfortable. It's very life-like, and the meeting table is designed so the party on the other side of the "table" looks very much to be in the room and attached to the table we were sitting at. It's a great effect, and it's no surprise that a Hollywood cinematographer was consulted early on.

The demo was led by Rick Moran and his team from the San Jose TelePresence facility, and it was very engaging. Aside from the cost savings on travel, I wanted to say that Rick noted another benefit - it's a green solution. He noted that Cisco is using TelePresence internally to cut carbon emissions related to all the travel their people do by 10%. So, there's a nice nod there to Kyoto. Am not sure it will close any deals, but definitely a worthy selling point. Thanks, Rick.

And now for the fun stuff - some photos and a video clip, courtesy of my Nokia N93. And thank you Cisco, for giving me permission to do this. This is my second post with N93 photos, but my first with a video clip. The photos give a good idea of the look of the system, but the video gives you both the look and feel of the experience. It's only about 2 minutes, and if you run out and buy one after seeing this - which you just might do - I think I may need to make a deal with Cisco....

Nitin Kawale's presentation and welcome


I just have to say that with all the buildup around finally "experiencing" Telepresence, a little Also Sprach Zarathustra would not have been out of place. Is it just me, or doesn't the 7960 remind you of the monolith in 2001 - A Space Odessey? Even just a little bit? We're talking about new frontiers here, folks....


Rick Moran and his team on the San Jose side of the table...


And finally, the video clip, perhaps the next best thing to being there. It's about 2 minutes long, and you can view it down below. Just click on the triangle in the bottom left corner to play it. Enjoy!

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