Cisco To Offer Subscription-Based Telepresence To SMBs Through Channel Partners


Cisco will offer subscription-based telepresence services to SMBs through the channel -- one of several video-related announcements the vendor plans to make Wednesday along with several new products in its TelePresence portfolio.

Among the new telepresence wares launching Wednesday are Cisco's MX300 -- a larger, 55-inch version of the MX200 endpoint Cisco debuted in July, offering 1080p at 30 frames per second video. Also new is a second generation version of its VX Clinical Assistant, a telemedicine-centric version of Cisco TelePresence offered to health care customers.

The big news for partners, however, is Cisco TelePresence Callway, which combines Cisco TelePresence endpoints with a subscription-based telepresence service hosted and managed by Cisco and sold through the channel. Callway service will start at $99 a month for SMB customers, a standard package that includes unlimited telepresence calling and data sharing. A premium version of the service, at $149 a month, adds higher resolution video.

Callway will work with Cisco's MX video systems, C40 codec, C20 quick set codec, and EX 60, EX90 and E20 video units, and Cisco customers can either buy or lease the endpoints. Cisco will also offer a service called MeetMe -- essentially a multiparty bridging capability that can support up to 12 callers -- for $349 a month.

U.S.-based Cisco channel partners will get first crack at selling Callway. Solution providers need to be Cisco Telepresence-certified in order to sell the product, according to Gina Clark, vice president and general manager in Cisco's TelePresence Cloud Business Unit.

In addition to the new endpoints and services, Cisco is also launching Jabber Video for Telepresence, a software client that customers can use to connect into Cisco telepresence meetings even if they don't have Cisco telepresence or other comparable endpoints. In essence, that participant can click on a link sent to them and then be able to do full instant messaging, voice and video capabilities using the Jabber client, which will work with Cisco's Video Communication Server (VCS) Expressway and the Callway services. It'll be released in beta in the first quarter of 2012, according to Cisco.

During a conference call for media and analysts earlier this week, Marthin De Beer, Cisco senior vice president and general manger, Emerging Business Group, said video overall is a $5 billion business for Cisco, but is expected to hit $18 billion over the next three years as interest in video increases. Cisco is investing approximately $1 billion in R&D related to video, said De Beer, who now manages all of its video businesses: consumer, enterprise and service provider.

Cisco's latest moves come as various competitors aggressively target Cisco's video dominance, from Polycom looking to bulk up its channel relationships, services opportunities and software strategy to smaller competitors like LifeSize Communications, Vidyo and a host of startups jockeying for video channel business. Other major vendors with substantial unified communications practices, such as Avaya, Microsoft and Siemens Enterprise Communications, are also pushing video and its role in the broader UC and collaboration market.

Cisco's argument is that it's the only vendor to offer a full collaboration portfolio that touches everything from call control to video infrastructure and management capabilities. All of Cisco's collaboration endpoints, from Cius, its Android-based tablet, to its WebEx collaboration platform and its IP phones, are now video-enabled -- a point Cisco executives repeatedly emphasized during the media conference this week.

Cisco also now offers interoperability between its video products and those of other vendors that used standards-based protocols like H.323 and SIP, and as of November, all of its video products will have touch user interfaces.

Many of Cisco's recent product announcements address flexibility and easier management of video infrastructure; during its most recent telepresence product blitz this past July, for example, Cisco released the Cisco Telepresence Conductor, which can process multi-party conferencing request and automatically assign meetings to appropriate conference units -- meaning that telepresence meetings can be conducted on-the-fly, without so much pre-scheduling hassle.

Next: Cisco's Pitch To Video Partners Looking At SMB