Cisco TelePresence Coming to a Living Room Near You


The technology will be available via the channel, including via retailers the likes of Best Buy and Wal-Mart and service providers such as AT&T, said Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers at the Cisco Live conference in Orlando, Fla.

"It will probably evolve. At first we'll do it ... where we're very careful on how the channel sells TelePresence and very careful that the rooms are set up right and the cameras are set up right," Chambers said. "Having said that, I think that you will see a combination of distribution points."

Chambers expects pricing of Cisco's home-use TelePresence units to come in below $10,000 depending on what functionality the user wants.

"If you look at the average consumer, many consumers might spend a huge amount of discretionary spending on electronics in the home, so my first point of view is that $10,000 would be a very reasonable price point. I think we'll come in well below that," Chambers said. "It really depends on if you want a stand-alone TelePresence unit that also doubles as your TV with a lot of functionality on it or if you want to use a high-definition set-top box with a networking-type capability."

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Cisco foresees TelePresence in the home fulfilling both business and entertainment requirements, he said.

"If it's just to check in on your family, you'll have a lot of early adopters using it, but if all of sudden you begin to use it for your business, like I would use it, especially when the majority of my customers are now outside the time zone I'm working in, it becomes key," Chambers said. "It also depends on when you start to tie in sports and entertainment."

Cisco expects to see scenarios where home viewers can use Cisco TelePresence to watch sporting events together on TV from different couches. Chambers also noted that some of the work Cisco is doing to provide networked sports stadiums will influence services available to sports fans in the home as well.

"I think it's a very natural step. There are more high-definition screens in people's homes," said Brett Shockley, CEO of Spanlink Communications, a Minneapolis-based solution provider.

Systems integrators will find many opportunities to work with TelePresence in the home, particularly as businesses subsidize the deployment of the technology for executives working at home, said Alex Thurber, senior director of go-to-market strategy for worldwide channels at Cisco, San Jose, Calif.

"Certainly in the short-term there will be co-sponsored TelePresence, where the executive at home is linked into corporate unified communications. Partners will definitely play a role," he said.