All Signs Point To Cisco Home Telepresence Launch


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Cisco next week will unveil a consumer-oriented version of TelePresence, the videoconferencing system that has made Cisco a force among high-end corporate customers, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The associated products, which will supposedly include a video camera and devices to connect home HDTVs to the Internet, will be in the $600 range, with a monthly subscription fee.

The Wall Street Journal sourced "a person briefed on the matter" in its Thursday report.

Cisco already has issued invitations to an event in San Francisco Wednesday, to be hosted by Chairman and CEO John Chambers. The invitations include the banner line "Let's get together" and urges invitees to "come see a new Cisco consumer experience at an exclusive media event" Wednesday morning.

If the launch is indeed around home telepresence, it will make good on nearly two years of rumors and suggestion by Cisco that it would release such a system. It would also put Cisco in more direct competition with not only Skype, but also a glut of low-end Webcam and videoconferencing systems used by consumers as well as other major networking vendors starting to compete in the space.

Cisco archrival Hewlett-Packard, for example, is said to be developing a home videoconferencing product. Interest in Skype and other low-end communications services are also going the other way, too; vendors such as Avaya are working to bring low-end services like Skype into high-end enterprise accounts, as evidenced by Avaya's new strategic alliance with the VoIP player. Cisco was itself recently rumored to have kicked the tires on a Skype acquisition.

Cisco has mentioned home telepresence a number of times before. In an interview with CRN at Cisco's Partner Summit in April, Marthin De Beer, senior vice president of Cisco's Emerging Technologies Group, said that home telepresence was "in trials" and was "going to be a home run product for us."

"I can't wait for Christmas to come," De Beer said at the time.

The move would further show continued expansion by Cisco into not only video -- where it has triumphed with TelePresence and through its acquisition of Tandberg -- but also into the consumer space, where it already has the recently refreshed Flip line of low-end video cameras and has been continuous in releases for its Valet and Linksys home networking product lines.

Its acquisition streak has also favored consumer-oriented businesses this year, including the purchase of Moto Development Group in May and that of video content manager company ExtendMedia in August.

A spokesperson for Cisco declined to provide additional details to CRN about the product launch.

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