Tandberg Lets Telepresence Run Free

Tandberg ASA (OSE: TAA) is bringing a new level of customization to telepresence, offering business users the ability to design their immersive multimedia conferencing environments to meet their business needs and locations, whether that’s a classroom or a fashion show catwalk.

The Norwegian vendor says its new T3 Custom Edition, announced today, takes high-end telepresence capabilities out of the conference room environment, enabling businesses to choose their setting but still use the immersive abilities of telepresence, including high-quality audio and video. Different configurations can include multiple screens or different types of collaboration tools.

Tandberg, which is close to being acquired by telepresence system rival Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), launched the initial T3 system in October 2008. (See Cisco Tries Again With Tandberg, Cisco's Nordic Gap, and Tandberg Deal Boosts Cisco's Video Plans.)

And while Jerry Monroe, Tandberg's telepresence director, says the company has seen solid traction for the product, customers have been asking for greater flexibility, leading to the development of the Custom Edition.

"Our customers have been asking for this immersive experience, but put more into their context," Monroe says. "That can be more people than just six to nine folks sitting around a conference room table, or it can be in a very different kind of setting."

Tandberg, which also sells small, desktop telepresence units, provides the technology, while its distribution partners, including service providers, video specialists, audio-visual specialists, and systems integrators, provide the expertise to design the custom environment, according to Monroe. (See Tandberg Touts Milestone.)

Tandberg is working with its partners to insure they have the expertise to help enterprises, while the vendor's service provider customers, which want to offer telepresence as a managed service, have been reaching out to systems integrators and video experts to partner with them in delivering the service. "Not everyone has the video expertise in-house," says Monroe. (See BT Offers International Telepresence.)

By expanding how the technology can be used, Tandberg intends to open up a wider market for telepresence, looking beyond companies that want to use it for high-level meetings.

"This will still largely be a high-end dedicated facility," Monroe notes. "But it won’t be just a boardroom facility."

Monroe believes higher education, training companies, or anything that requires a command and control environment will be ideal for this approach, while research and development operations in multiple industries can also benefit.

Tandberg is very close to signing a major fashion designer that wants to create a virtual runway, he claims.

Tandberg's move comes as telepresence services begin to realize more of their potential in specific vertical sectors, such as healthcare. (See AT&T: Healthcare Embracing Telepresence and Banks Get Telepresence.)

The Norwegian company will find plenty of competition as it tries to push its telepresence capabilities into new industries and locations. Cisco has shrunk its high-end TelePresence system for greater flexibility (so there should be some interesting product roadmap conversations should Cisco's acquisition of Tandberg go through), while other big hitters and niche players have also been shouting aloud about the mass potential of immersive, multimedia conferencing.

For more on recent telepresence market activity, see:

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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