Cisco, Teliris Cheapen Telepresence

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Teliris Ltd. separately unveiled new, cheaper telepresence offerings today, aimed at making the service more affordable for companies of all sizes. (See Cisco Intros Telepresence and Teliris Does Cut-Price Telepresence.)

Cisco is now offering a new TelePresence 500 package that is meant for personal use in a private office. The 37-inch screen system will sell for $33,900. It is also adding a new package on the high end in the form of the new TelePresence 3200 for $340,000 which is simply the three-screen TelePresence 3000 model with triple the seating capacity. (See Cisco's Telepresence.)

Teliris’s updates are a bit more extensive and cheaper than Cisco’s. While it is not making any changes to its high-end Virtual Live models, it is adding a personal telepresence package of its own.

That 40-inch screen model will be sold for $32,500. Teliris is also adding a middle-of-the-road model called Express Telepresence in two- or three-screen variations costing between $99,000 and $125,000. Its current three-screen model sells between $200,000 and $300,000. (See Oldest. Telepresence. Ever.)

The moves by both companies represent the shift in focus in the telepresence market towards the broader middle-management customer base. Most of the early buyers of telepresence systems were C-level executives of large corporations, but now vendors are realizing that, to attract more than just that small demographic of customers, cheaper, lower-end models needed to become available.

“I’m in the business of selling more,” says Teliris CEO Marc Trachtenberg. “It’s not that telepresence was too expensive. Our Virtual Live environment and Cisco’s TelePresence 3000 and 3200 are not going down in price, because they provide a great value. But there are places where you want to fill in. We want to get ourselves deeper into our current enterprise customers and further ourselves in smaller companies that will be able to afford this new offering.”

Trachtenberg says his new three-screen model is much cheaper than the current Virtual Live model because it uses different technology and has less immersive features. “It’s sized differently and has single-chip HD cameras instead of three chip. We’re using components that are more down-market to save cost,” says Trachtenberg. The technology behind the audio technology is also more compact. All in all, it’s a less immersive experience but one that Teliris feels is still very competitive.

“It’s more immersive than Cisco and less immersive than our Virtual Live package,” says Trachtenberg.

Cisco meanwhile has not made many technology tweaks to its new TelePresence offerings. The high-end 3200 model has extra seating and adds better camera lenses in order to accommodate the extra participants without sacrificing image quality.

Trachtenberg wasn't impressed with his competitor's announcement: “The 3200 is no different to the 3000 except that they’ve added a focus ring to their cameras and a table with four microphones.”

A Cisco spokesman would not comment on Trachtenberg's assessment saying only that "our TelePresence speaks for itself."

— Raymond McConville, Reporter, Light Reading

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